Get Smart About Use Of Antibiotics

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

What do sinusitis, most sore throats, bronchitis, runny noses and the regular cold have in common? They are upper respiratory tract infections usually caused by viruses that can′t be cured with antibiotics. Yet, each year, health care providers in the U.S. prescribe tens of millions of antibiotics for viral infections.

To bring attention to this increasing problem, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will be observing the Get Smart About Antibiotics Week October 6-10, 2008. The campaign will highlight the coordinated efforts of the agency, states, non-profit partners, and for-profit partners to educate the public about antibiotic resistance and the importance of appropriate antibiotic use.


"Antibiotic overuse is a serious problem and a threat to everyone′s health," says Dr. Lauri Hicks, medical director of CDC′s Get Smart: Know When Antibiotics Work program. Over-prescribing antibiotics, using a broad-spectrum therapy when a more specific drug would be better, starting and stopping medications, giving leftover medications to a friend who appears to have the same ailment you had, all contribute to the problem of antibiotic drug resistance, according to Hicks.

"As we enter this year′s cold and flu season, we ask parents to not insist on getting antibiotics when a health care provider says they are not needed," says Hicks. "If you have a cold, or the flu, antibiotics won't work for you."

According to Hicks antibiotics kill bacteria, not the viruses that cause colds or flu, most coughs and bronchitis, sore throats not caused by strep, and runny noses. Taking antibiotics when you don′t need them or not as prescribed increases your risk of getting an infection later that resists antibiotic treatment. If the health care provider's recommendation is to wait- wait. People need to be patient and let the body do its work.

Hicks also asks health care providers to take the time to educate their patients about antibiotic resistance and the possibility of having serious side effects. For example, allergic reactions to antibiotics, such as rash and anaphylaxis, send thousands of patients to the emergency room each year, according to a recent study published in the Clinical Infectious Diseases Journal.