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Blog: An Antibiotic Isn't Always The Answer

Nov 19, 2019
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An Antibiotic Isn’t Always the Answer

Did you know that the overuse of antibiotics is the leading cause of antibiotic resistance?

Why Should You Care About Antibiotic Resistance?

Antibiotic resistance has been called "one of the world’s most pressing public health problems." Antibiotic resistance can cause infections that were once easily treated with antibiotics to become dangerous infections that can spread and may threaten your community. Antibiotic-resistant bacteria are often more difficult to treat. In some cases, the antibiotic-resistant infections can lead to serious disability or even death.  Every year in the US, drug resistant bacteria cause over 2 million infections and at least 23,000 deaths.   
Although some people think a person becomes resistant to specific drugs, it is the bacteria, not the person, that become resistant to the drugs.
Antibiotic resistance is the ability of bacteria to resist the effects of an antibiotic. Antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria change in a way that reduces the effectiveness of antibiotics to cure or prevent infections. The bacteria survive and continue to multiply, causing more harm.  The overuse of antibiotics, or using them inappropriately, is the leading cause of antibiotic resistance.

When is an antibiotic needed?

In the treatment of a bacterial infection.  Antibiotics do NOT treat viral illnesses. When an antibiotic is not prescribed, ask your healthcare professional for tips on how to relieve symptoms and feel better. If you have a cold, runny nose, chest cold, flu, sore throat (except strep) or fluid in the middle ear, it is most likely caused by a virus and does not require an antibiotic.

So, What Can be Done to Minimize the Risk of Antibiotic Resistance? 

Appropriate use of antibiotics is called Antibiotic Stewardship.  Antibiotics are life-saving drugs and using them correctly is the best  way we can ensure that they continue to work for you in the future.  It is important for you to know that here, at St. Bernards Medical Center, we are working very hard to ensure that you are given the right antibiotic at the right dose for the right amount of time. We have a group of healthcare providers who are evaluating this on a daily basis.

You play an important role in antibiotic stewardship!  Here are some ways you can help with antibiotic stewardship; protecting yourself and community from antibiotic resistance

  • Review your recorded antibiotic "allergies" with your primary provider and family.  Side effects like nausea, stomach upset, and headache should not lead to an antibiotic being listed as an allergy.  If you were to present to the hospital with a severe bacterial infection, you would want your provider to be able to chose the best antibiotic for your infection and not be limited by reported side effects.   Anaphylaxis, difficulty breathing, swelling, significant rashes, etc are reactions that should lead to an antibiotic being listed as an allergy
  • Never take an antibiotic for a viral infection like a cold or the flu.
  • If you are prescribed an antibiotic, take the prescribed antibiotic exactly as your healthcare professional tells you.  
  • Never skip doses.
  • Never save antibiotics for the next time you get sick.  Taking the wrong antibiotic may delay correct treatment, allow bacteria to multiply, increase your chance of antibiotic resistance, and cause unwanted or severe side effects.
  • Never take antibiotics prescribed for someone else.
  • Discard any leftover medication.
  • Ask your healthcare professional what you can do to stop or slow antibiotic resistance
  • Ask your healthcare professional if there are steps you can take to feel better and get symptomatic relief without using antibiotics.  Sometimes the best treatment for your illness may be relieving symptoms, not an antibiotiic.
  • Never pressure your healthcare professional to prescribe an antibiotic.
  • Ask your healthcare professional about vaccines recommended for you and your family to prevent infections that may require an antibiotic.  Vaccines are an effective way to prevent infections that may require antibiotics
  • Practice good hand hygiene. Hand washing is one of the best things you can do to prevent illness.

Reference:  Centers of disease control.