What is antibiotic resistance?
We are now well into fall now which means that colds, sinus infections, bronchitis, etc seem to be running rampant. All of the urgent care centers and doctor’s offices will soon be full of people looking for relief from these nasty bugs. Are we dealing with a virus or bacteria? When do you need an antibiotic?
Since the 1940’s, antibiotics have been used to help prevent death and illness from infectious diseases. However, the widespread use of these agents is making some bacteria harder to kill due to their adaptation to the drug. This, unfortunately, renders the antimicrobial agent ineffective. These drug-resistant bacteria are are infecting people leading to serious illness or death.
How does antibiotic resistance happen?
How are antibiotic-resistant germs spread?
What can I do to protect myself and my family?
Avoiding infections before they start is the best way to avoid antibiotic resistance. Be sure to keep these tips in mind:
- Wash your hands often. This is the number one way to remove germs, avoid getting sick, and preventing transmission of germs to others.
- Update your vaccinations
- Prevent the spread of food-borne illnesses
- Keep your water safe
- Avoid sexually transmitted infections
Using antibiotics the right way
Most of the time, viruses cause the common cold, flu, sore throats, sinus infections, and bronchitis. Therefore, antibiotics will not work. Taking antibiotics when they are not needed raises your risk later for an infection that resists antibiotic treatment.
It is no fun being sick. Symptomatic relief helps for viral illnesses includes plenty of rest, fluids, use of humidifiers, and using over the counter medications as directed.
Here are some examples of scenarios in which antibiotics may (or may not) be needed:
- Acute bronchitis is usually not a problem for otherwise healthy people. However, if you have a chronic respiratory illness such as COPD or emphysema, you may need antibiotics.
- Ear infections. Your provider will make a decision based on history and may even culture fluid from your ear drum. Many times, ear infections will clear up on their own.
- Pneumonia can be caused by bacteria, viruses, or fungi. Treatment will depend on symptoms and exam findings.
- Sinus infection. Many are viral but signs of a bacterial sinus infection include symptoms that persist for more than 10-14 days, high fever, and what is referred to as “double sickening”—your symptoms were beginning to get better then became worse.
- Strep throat is a bacterial infection however only a small percentage of sore throats are actually strep. Your provider will examine you and likely perform a throat swab.
You should see your provider if you think you may have a bacterial infection. NEVER share antibiotics with anyone else or take antibiotics leftover from an old prescription! These behaviors lead to antibiotic resistance!
The federal government and the CDC are working hard to limit antibiotic resistance in the United States. Click here to learn more about these efforts.
What will you do to protect yourself from infection this fall/winter? Tell me in the comments!
Disclaimer: Information contained in this post should not be substituted for medical advice. If you think you are having a problem, contact your own provider who knows your health history.