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Things You Should Know About Antibiotics

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture
Things You Should Know About Antibiotics

When children are back in school and in close quarters, the incidence of sneezes and sniffles rises. Knowing when antibiotics will help relieve symptoms - and when they won't - is key to helping prevent the spread of antibiotic resistance.

"We all need to remain smart about antibiotic use, and by ‘we,' I mean doctors, nurses, and patients," says Christopher Carpenter, M.D., Infectious Diseases specialist at Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak (Mich.) and director of Beaumont's Antimicrobial Stewardship Program. "Beaumont has a program that promotes appropriate antibiotic use in the hospital, and with the help of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Michigan Antibiotic Resistance Reduction Coalition, we are providing materials and education to encourage appropriate outpatient use in our Emergency Center and doctors' offices."

The CDC offers the following facts and tips:

1. Colds, flu and most sore throats and bronchitis are caused by viruses. Antibiotics do not help and may do more harm than good by increasing the risk of a resistant infection later.

2. Antibiotic resistance - the development of "superbugs" that are resistant to available drugs - has been called one of the world's most pressing public health problems.

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3. When antibiotics fail to work, the consequences are: longer-lasting illnesses; more doctor visits or extended hospital stays; and the need for more expensive and toxic medications. Some resistant infections can cause death.

4. Children are of particular concern because they have the highest rates of antibiotic use. They also have the highest rate of infections caused by antibiotic-resistant "bugs."

5. Patients should not demand antibiotics when a health care provider has determined they are not needed.

6. When an antibiotic is prescribed, take all of it, even if symptoms disappear. If treatment stops too soon, some bacteria may survive and re-infect.

7. The spread of viral infections like cold and flu can be reduced through frequent hand washing and by avoiding close contact with others.

8. Viral infections sometimes lead to bacterial infections. Keep your health care provider informed if your illness gets worse or lasts a long time.