Antibiotics 101: Fighting Bacteria the Right Way (International Infection Prevention Week)

*This week is International Infection Prevention Week*

When you’re sick and miserable, all you want to do is get better — and fast! You go to the doctor in hopes that he can give you some magical medicine to make your headache, sore throat, runny nose, or aches and pains disappear overnight.

Unfortunately, there isn’t always a magic medicine. Especially with viral infections, the doctor will likely tell you to rest and push the fluids. But that can be hard to hear, especially when your symptoms are making you feel downright wretched.

While antibiotics can be really helpful in treating bacterial infections, the overprescribing and improper use of antibiotics has actually made some strains of bacteria stronger — which makes all of us more susceptible to hard-to-treat illnesses.

Antibiotic Resistance

Antibiotic resistance, or “the ability of microbes to resist the effects of drugs,” is becoming a real problem in the US (1). In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, every year 2 million people “become infected with bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics and at least 23,000 people die each year as a direct result of these infections” (2). Not only this, but the World Health Organization considers antibiotic resistance to be “one of the biggest threats to global health” (3). Because bacteria is quickly learning to withstand antibiotics, you and your children could be at risk.

So what can we do to prevent this problem? In honor of International Infection Prevention Week, we want to share the ABC’s of Antibiotics (4) to help you and your kids be healthy and safe from bacterial infections.

A: Ask

When a doctor prescribes you or your child antibiotics, make sure you understand what the purpose is. You can ask questions like, “Do I really need an antibiotic?” This can act as a sort of check on healthcare providers, making sure that they only prescribe antibiotics when it’s really necessary.

B: Bacteria

While it can be tempting to pressure a doctor for antibiotics, most coughs, colds, and flus can’t be treated with antibiotics anyway (5). Antibiotics won’t actually help if your illness is caused by a virus. And according to the CDC, taking antibiotics for something other than a bacterial infection can just make it more likely for you to get an antibiotic-resistant infection later on (6).

C: Complete the Course

In order to use antibiotics properly, make sure you complete the full course of antibiotics as directed by your doctor. Even if you start to feel better, the antibiotics may not have killed all the bacteria yet. The WHO also says that an important part of prevention is never using leftover antibiotics or sharing them with others (7).

An Ounce of Prevention

Of course, using antibiotics properly is an important part of keeping you and your kids safe. But as Benjamin Franklin once said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” (8). Healthy habits like washing your hands, getting vaccinated, and safely handling your food can go a long way toward protecting your family from infections in the first place (9).

As we work together to keep ourselves healthy, use antibiotics properly, and only get antibiotics when we really need them, we can protect our families and ultimately the world from antibiotic-resistant infections. So, start practicing the ABC’s of Antibiotics today!

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References

*Pictures retrieved from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:E._coli_Bacteria_(16578744517).jpg and http://professionals.site.apic.org/files/2013/10/AntibioticInfographic14-FINAL.pdf.

1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2017, April 6). About antimicrobial resistance. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/drugresistance/about.html

2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2017, August 18). Antibiotic/antimicrobial resistance. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/drugresistance/index.html

3. World Health Organization. (2016, October). Antibiotic resistance. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/antibiotic-resistance/en/

4-5.  Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology. (n.d.). The ABC’s of antibiotics. Retrieved from http://professionals.site.apic.org/files/2013/10/AntibioticInfographic14-FINAL.pdf

6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2017, February 24). Protecting yourself and your family. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/drugresistance/protecting_yourself_family.html

7. World Health Organization. (2016, October). Antibiotic resistance. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/antibiotic-resistance/en/

8. Franklin, B. (n.d.). Quotable quote. Retrieved from https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/247269-an-ounce-of-prevention-is-worth-a-pound-of-cure

9. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2017, February 24). Protecting yourself and your family. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/drugresistance/protecting_yourself_family.html

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