Using Antibiotics Wisely
- Antibiotics are among some of the most powerful and important medicines known.
- Antibiotic resistance typically happens when patients do not take the medication for the full length of time indicated on the prescription and/or by the doctor.
- Infections are caused by two main types of germs—bacteria and viruses.
Bacterial infections can be cured by antibiotics.
Viral infections cannot be cured by antibiotics.
- Viral infections cause all colds and most coughs and sore throats. People recover from viral infections when the illness has run its course.
- Viral infections may sometimes lead to bacterial infections; however, this typically doesn't happen unless the patient has had the viral symptoms for more than seven days.
- Doctors and pharmacists in hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare settings can tell you when antibiotics are needed. Antibiotics are not recommended for the following infections, with a few exceptions:
- Sinus infections
- Cough or bronchitis
- Common colds (antibiotics have no effect on colds)
- Sore throats (antibiotics are only needed for "strep throat," which is diagnosed with a laboratory test)
- Antibiotic-resistant bacteria may start in hospitals. However, new studies are showing that antibiotic resistance is also happening in communities.
Your doctor may prescribe antibiotics before and after certain surgeries. Only take the antibiotic during the time frame explained to you, and do not "save" antibiotics for later, just in case.
- Patients who are more vulnerable to antibiotic-resistant bacteria include:
- Premature infants and children
- The elderly
- Burn victims
- Bone marrow transplant patients, and
- Patients with weakened immune systems (i.e., AIDS, cancer).
- Pharmacists who work in hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare settings make sure that patients receive the right type of antibiotics. They also help to create procedures to prevent the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in hospitals and other healthcare facilities.