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Get Smart about Antibiotics
Each year, millions of Americans take antibiotics to fight infections. But overuse and misuse of antibiotics can change germs, allowing them to evolve resistance to antibiotics. This increases the risk of an infection for which there are limited or no treatment options. Take the time this week, national Get Smart about Antibiotics Week, to education yourself on proper use of antibiotics.
“Antibiotic use leads to antibiotic resistance, which is a major public health problem,” said Health Access Network Medical Director Noah Nesin, M.D. “Since antibiotics are the most important tool we have to combat many life-threatening bacterial diseases, it is crucial that we limit antibiotic overuse to preserve their strength for the future.”
Patients who receive antibiotics can experience side effects, including allergic reactions and may be at increased risk for Clostridium difficile infection, a potentially deadly infection.
Locally, healthcare providers at Health Access Network and Penobscot Valley Hospital are working to remind patients that antibiotics cannot treat viral infections like the cold, flu or bronchitis. If you or your child has one of these viral infections, talk with your healthcare provider about ways to feel better when you are suffering from one of these viral illnesses.
“HAN and PVH have joined together to collaborate on reducing the use of antibiotics for the last six months. In that time, our teams have been monitoring antibiotic prescriptions and have been fairly successful in limiting antibiotic use within our community,” said Penobscot Valley Hospital Chief of Emergency Medicine David Dumont, MD.
Six Simple and Smart Facts about Antibiotic Use from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention:
1. Antibiotics are life-saving drugs
Using antibiotics wisely is the best way to preserve their strength for future bacterial illnesses.
2. Antibiotics only treat bacterial infections
If your child has a viral infection like a cold, talk to a doctor or pharmacist about symptom relief. This may include over-the-counter medicine, a humidifier, or warm liquids.
3. Some ear infections DO NOT require an antibiotic
A doctor can determine what kind of ear infection your child has and if antibiotics will help. The doctor may follow expert guidelines to wait a couple of days before prescribing antibiotics since your child may get better without them.
4. Most sore throats DO NOT require an antibiotic
Only 1 in 5 children seen by a doctor for a sore throat has strep throat, which should be treated with an antibiotic. Your child’s doctor can only confirm strep throat by running a test.
5. Green colored mucus is NOT a sign that an antibiotic is needed
As the body’s immune system fights off an infection, mucus can change color. This is normal and does not mean your child needs an antibiotic.
6. There are potential risks when taking any prescription drug
Antibiotic use can cause complications, ranging from an upset stomach to a serious allergic reaction. Your child’s doctor will weigh the risks and benefits before prescribing an antibiotic.
Viruses cause common illnesses that antibiotics CANNOT treat including:
•Influenza (the flu)
•Most sore throats
•Most sinus infections
•Some ear infections
Viral illnesses, like colds, usually go away without treatment in a week or two. Even many bacterial ear infections go away by themselves. When an antibiotic is not prescribed, ask your child’s doctor or pharmacist what can be used to relieve symptoms.
According to the CDC, taking antibiotics for viral illnesses will not cure the illness and they will not make you feel better. You’ll also remain contagious, at risk of passing the virus on to others.
Antibiotic use can:
•Kill good bacteria in your child’s body, which may lead to complications, such as diarrhea or yeast infection.
•Cause a serious allergic reaction that may require hospitalization.
•Result in an antibiotic-resistant infection. Resistant bacteria are stronger and harder to kill. They can stay in your child’s body and can cause severe illnesses that cannot be cured with antibiotics. A cure for a resistant infection may require stronger treatment–and possibly a hospital stay.
“Antibiotics are a shared resource in that they way we use antibiotics in one patient today directly impacts how effective they will be tomorrow,” adds Dr. Dumont.
Antibiotic resistance is not just a problem for the person with the infection. Some resistant bacteria have the potential to spread to others – promoting antibiotic resistant infections. Since it will be many years before new antibiotics are available to treat some resistant infections, we need to improve the use of antibiotics that are currently available.
Talk with your healthcare provider about the best way to care for yourself or your child during an illness. Access ‘Get Smart’ symptom relief tips and tools for your child at: www.cdc.gov/getsmart or call 1-800-CDC-INFO (232-4636).