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Are You Antibiotic Aware?

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Are Antibiotics Safe? What Else Should I Know About Them?

Antibiotics were first introduced in the 1940s, having a huge impact on health care. Before that, diseases like pneumonia and tuberculosis often meant death. Antibiotics are a powerful medication that have saved hundreds of millions of lives by either stopping bacteria from reproducing or destroying them.

However, overtreatment with antibiotics became a major factor leading to antibiotic resistance worldwide. Approximately 30 percent of antibiotic prescriptions in outpatient settings are not needed or are not optimally effective.

What is antibiotic resistance?

Antibiotic resistance happens when bacteria develop the ability to defeat the drugs designed to kill them. The bacteria mutate into what we now call “superbugs.” A recent study estimates that by 2050, 10 million people worldwide could die each year from antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

How can you have an impact on this problem? Start by making yourself antibiotic aware.

  1. Antibiotics still do save lives. When they are needed, the benefits usually outweigh the side effects or risk for resistance.
  2. Antibiotics aren’t always the answer. Taking them when they aren’t needed increases your risk for adverse drug reactions and future resistant infections.
  3. Antibiotics do not work against viruses, such as colds, bronchitis or runny noses.
  4. Antibiotics are only needed for treating infections caused by bacteria, but even some bacterial infections get better without antibiotics including many sinus infections and some ear infections.
  5. Antibiotics will not make you feel better if you have a virus. Respiratory viruses usually go away in a week or two without treatment. Ask your personal doctor about the best way to feel better while your body fights off the virus.
  6. If you need antibiotics, take them exactly as prescribed. Talk with your personal doctor if you have any questions about the antibiotic you’re taking, or if you develop side effects, especially diarrhea, since that could be Clostridium difficile (C. diff) infection which would need prompt treatment.

Network Health is committed to working with partners to draw attention to appropriate antibiotic use. With combined efforts, our priority is to educate patients and their families about antibiotics’ risks and benefits. If you have any questions about antibiotic resistance, please talk to your personal doctor or contact us at 920-720-1212.

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