Antibiotics can save lives. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is advising patients and their families to use antibiotics only when necessary to reduce antimicrobial resistance, help stop the spread of superbugs, and protect patients from side effects from antibiotics.
Antibiotics do NOT treat viruses, like those that cause colds, flu, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), or COVID-19. Other medications, like antivirals, can treat viruses. Antibiotics are only needed for treating certain infections caused by bacteria, but even some bacterial infections get better without antibiotics. Antibiotics are not needed for treating many sinus infections and some ear infections, which can be caused by either bacteria or viruses. When antibiotics aren’t needed, they won’t help you, and the side effects could still cause harm. Side effects range from minor to very severe health problems.
The Memorial Hospital Antibiotic Stewardship Team works with our providers to improve antibiotic prescribing. “Optimizing the use of antibiotics is critical to effectively treat infections, protect patients from harm caused by unnecessary antibiotic use, and combat antibiotic resistance,” explains Dr. Lisa Lowry-Rohlfing, Family Practice Doctor, and Antibiotic Stewardship Team member at Memorial. “If you need antibiotics, take them exactly as prescribed. Talk with your healthcare professional if you have any questions about your antibiotics.”
Taking antibiotics can contribute to the development of antimicrobial resistance. Antimicrobial resistance occurs when germs like bacteria and fungi develop the ability to defeat the drugs designed to kill them. That means these germs are not killed and continue to grow. It does not mean our body is resistant to antibiotics or antifungals. Antimicrobial resistance is a naturally occurring process. Bacteria and fungi are constantly finding new ways to avoid the effects of the antibiotic and antifungal drugs used to treat the infections they cause.
Infections caused by antimicrobial-resistant germs are difficult, and sometimes impossible, to treat. In many cases, antimicrobial-resistant infections require extended hospital stays, additional follow-up doctor visits, and costly and toxic alternatives. Anytime antibiotics are used, they can contribute to antimicrobial resistance. Everyone has a role to play in improving antibiotic use. When you need antibiotics for a bacterial infection, the benefits usually outweigh the risk of side effects. Appropriate antibiotic use helps fight antimicrobial resistance and ensures these lifesaving drugs will be available for future generations. If your doctor decides an antibiotic is the best treatment when you are sick:
Take the medication exactly as your doctor tells you.
Do not share your medication with others.
Do not save them for later. Talk to your pharmacist about safely discarding leftover medicines.
Do not take antibiotics prescribed for someone else. This may delay the best treatment for you, make you even sicker, or cause side effects.
Talk with your doctor and pharmacist if you have any questions about your antibiotics prescribed to you.
Be Antibiotic Aware!