We now know that simple changes in behavior, such as recycling trash and buying energy-efficient appliances, can make a difference in protecting our planet, especially for our children and grandchildren. But it’s taken time and education to raise awareness.
Dr. John Bower, a pediatric infectious disease specialist, would like to see similar progress made in our stewardship of antibiotics.
“Antibiotics are a very limited resource, and as resistance develops, the choices for treating true bacterial infections become fewer and fewer,” Dr. Bower said. “Already in the United States, bacteria exist that are resistant to all standard antibiotic choices.”
Driving the problem of resistance is the overuse of common antibiotics to treat non-bacterial problems, such as colds and coughs. In fact, as many as 50 percent of antibiotic prescriptions are unnecessary.
Nov. 17 to 23 is national “Get Smart: Know When Antibiotics Work” Week. Sponsored by the CDC, the week is devoted to spotlighting the world-wide problem of antibiotic resistance and overuse.
A key strategy in curbing antibiotic overuse is education. Patients and parents should know that antibiotics will not cure viral infections, such as:
- Colds or flu
- Most coughs and bronchitis
- Sore throats not caused by step, or
- Runny noses
Insisting that a doctor prescribe an antibiotic for a cold, flu and other viral illness only contributes to the overuse of antibiotics and will not cure the infection, keep others from catching your illness, or help you feel better.
When you’re prescribed an antibiotic, take it exactly as the doctor instructs. Complete the prescribed course even if you are feeling better. If treatment stops too soon, some bacteria may survive and re-infect you.
Don’t save some of your antibiotic for the next time you are sick, and never take an antibiotic prescribed for someone else.
We all play a role
Antibiotics have been used for the last 70 years and have greatly reduced illness and death from infectious diseases.
However, these drugs have been used so widely and for so long that the infectious organisms in the antibiotics are designed to kill have adapted to them, making the drugs less effective.
“In the United States alone, it is estimated that 23,000 people die annually from problems associated with antibiotic resistance,” said Dr. Bower. “Akron Children’s has launched an Antibiotic Stewardship Program that aims to help clinicians choose the most specific drug for a given infection, as well as in establishing the best routes and durations for treating infections.”
Antibiotic resistance has been called one of the world’s most pressing public health problems. Almost every type of bacteria has become stronger and less responsive to antibiotic treatment when it is really needed.
It’s up to doctors, public health officials, pharmacists, parents and patients to do their part in becoming stewards for responsible antibiotic use. It can be a matter of life and death.
For more information, visit http://www.cdc.gov/getsmart/community/index.html