Antibiotics Misuse & Misunderstanding Continues

November 16, 2012

In a new Pew poll, over one third of Americans stated they believe that antibiotics would be useful against viral infections such as flu and the common cold (sinus infection is also popularly believed curable by antibiotics, despite most commonly being caused by a virus). Over half of respondents admitted to not following directions on antibiotic use and discontinuing them before they’d finished.

These are beliefs and practices that contribute to antibiotic resistance, and so raising awareness about antibiotics is crucial, which is why November 12-18 is dedicated to getting smart about antibiotic use.

Immediate intervention with antibiotics can be useful for treating many common illnesses. Ideally, doctors would do a culture swab before prescribing antibiotics to ensure they are going to treat the illness the patient is seeing them for, but more often doctors gamble: a UTI is most often caused by bacteria, although other types of pathogens can cause the infection, so there’s a good chance prescribing an antibiotic will work without additional time or effort. Other times doctors will prescribe antibiotics to get rid of a fussy patient—something that is most strongly associated with sinus infections.

While pleasing a patient with a prescription might work as well as a placebo, antibiotics do have side-effects. They’ll kill good bacteria along with the bad, and overuse can lead to the development of antibiotic resistant bacteria (especially if the full prescription isn’t taken).

To combat the death of good bacteria (and help you to finish the course of antibiotics by reducing side-effects), have a probiotic at hand. Do Not take the probiotic at the same time as the antibiotic, or they risk cancelling each other out. If you’re taking the antibiotic with food, have the probiotic (yogurt, a supplement, home canned pickles, other fermented foods) as a snack later to restore the good gut bacteria that protects your GI Tract.

And spread the word: help family members remember to take the full course of antibiotics when prescribed, and gently correct people who are planning a trip to the doctor to ask for antibiotics for their cold or sinus infection. Overusing or misusing antibiotics might make their symptoms worse, and if an antibiotic resistant strain develops, it can affect others around them.

In a new Pew poll, over one third of Americans stated they believe that antibiotics would be useful against viral infections such as flu and the common cold (sinus infection is also popularly believed curable by antibiotics, despite most commonly being caused by a virus). Over half of respondents admitted to not following directions on antibiotic use and discontinuing them before they’d finished.

These are beliefs and practices that contribute to antibiotic resistance, and so raising awareness about antibiotics is crucial, which is why November 12-18 is dedicated to getting smart about antibiotic use.

Immediate intervention with antibiotics can be useful for treating many common illnesses. Ideally, doctors would do a culture swab before prescribing antibiotics to ensure they are going to treat the illness the patient is seeing them for, but more often doctors gamble: a UTI is most often caused by bacteria, although other types of pathogens can cause the infection, so there’s a good chance prescribing an antibiotic will work without additional time or effort. Other times doctors will prescribe antibiotics to get rid of a fussy patient—something that is most strongly associated with sinus infections.

While pleasing a patient with a prescription might work as well as a placebo, antibiotics do have side-effects. They’ll kill good bacteria along with the bad, and overuse can lead to the development of antibiotic resistant bacteria (especially if the full prescription isn’t taken).

To combat the death of good bacteria (and help you to finish the course of antibiotics by reducing side-effects), have a probiotic at hand. Do Not take the probiotic at the same time as the antibiotic, or they risk cancelling each other out. If you’re taking the antibiotic with food, have the probiotic (yogurt, a supplement, home canned pickles, other fermented foods) as a snack later to restore the good gut bacteria that protects your GI Tract.

And spread the word: help family members remember to take the full course of antibiotics when prescribed, and gently correct people who are planning a trip to the doctor to ask for antibiotics for their cold or sinus infection. Overusing or misusing antibiotics might make their symptoms worse, and if an antibiotic resistant strain develops, it can affect others around them.

What are your tools for talking to people about antibiotics and their proper use? Share your advice in the comments:

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