WHEN ANTIBIOTICS GO FROM A GOOD THING TO BAD THING
Once again while Patty and I were collaborating on an upcoming article we hit upon a hot topic that we felt needed some attention as well. That topic is antibiotic resistance.
So, you ask, “What is antibiotic resistance?” It’s when an antibiotic no longer has an effect on a certain strain of bacteria. It occurs when any bacteria that remain after being treated by an antibiotic multiply and pass on its resistant properties to other bacteria. To further explain, it’s when an antibiotic that should cure a bacterium, now suddenly doesn’t because it’s been overused and it’s tired. So cross that medication off of your list because it no longer works. Move on to another drug. If this happens too often, then you will have no more drugs to choose from. That’s what being resistant to an antibiotic means.
Question……How many of you have taken leftover antibiotics thinking it might help your sore throat? Seems harmless enough yet there are many things wrong with doing this.
Why are you medicating with an antibiotic without visiting a doctor and having a throat culture done?
Why do you have leftover antibiotics anyway?
Were the antibiotics originally prescribed for you or someone else?
Is the sore throat caused by a simple virus or bacteria requiring antibiotics?
Great questions, now allow us to explain. This is an example of misusing an antibiotic and both misuse/overuse of antibiotics can promote antibiotic resistance. Trust us, we get it but it’s our job to point out the perils of doing so.
Antibiotics treat BACTERIAL INFECTIONS but not VIRAL INFECTIONS. For example, an antibiotic is an appropriate treatment for strep throat, which is caused by a strain of strep bacteria but it's not the treatment of choice for other sore throats, which are caused by viruses. Simple salt water gargling, time, and Tylenol will work for that.
If you take an antibiotic when you actually have a viral infection, that antibiotic attacks bacteria in your body — bacteria that are either beneficial or at least not causing sickness. This inappropriate treatment can then promote antibiotic resistant properties in harmless bacteria or create an opportunity for potentially harmful bacteria to replace the harmless ones. Allow us to break it down further…let’s say you are going fishing. Would you throw a bomb into the ocean to get your fish or use a gentle fishing pole? The fish is not a whale, just as all sore throats do not require antibiotics to treat them. And we are not only talking sore throats, this goes for any illness such as urinary tract infections (UTIs) too, (article to follow shortly).
Some consequences of antibiotic resistant infections include:
More serious illness
More frequent or longer hospitalization
More doctor visits
More expensive treatments
So, what can you do to help prevent antibiotic resistance?
Use antibiotics only as prescribed by your doctor. Take the prescribed daily dosage, don’t skip doses, and complete the entire course of treatment. It's tempting to stop taking an antibiotic as soon as you feel better. But the full treatment is necessary to kill the disease causing bacteria. Failure to take an antibiotic as prescribed can result in the need to resume treatment later and may promote the spread of antibiotic resistant properties among harmful bacteria.
If you’re instructed to stop an antibiotic, safely throw it away (find a Designated Drug Drop off location). Don’t save for the next time you get sick or pass it along to a friend.
Never take leftover antibiotics for a later illness. It may not be the correct antibiotic and would not be a full course for treatment.
Never take antibiotics prescribed for another person.
Never take an antibiotic for a viral infection. Some common viral infections include:
Some ear infections
Some sinus infections
Antibiotic resistance is a real and eye-opening if not scary reality. “60 Minutes” did a feature on this subject that’s worth a watch. Here is the link:
Let’s all do our part to take our antibiotics responsibly. They are so important in our lives for fighting infections but only as long as they work.
It’s all good, so keep on rollin,’
Roberta, RN and Patty, BSN, RNC
The ROLLIN’ RNs ™