Education: Antibiotic Use and Overuse
“I’m sick! Why won’t my healthcare provider prescribe antibiotics?”
What are antibiotics?
Antibiotics are medications that kill bacteria that cause certain infections (such as strep throat, pneumonia, urinary tract infections, some ear infections, etc.), thereby treating the infection and sometimes even saving lives.
So…what’s the problem?
Unfortunately, using antibiotics too often leads to something called “antibiotic resistance.”
This happens when germs like bacteria develop the ability to defeat the drugs that usually would kill them, making them antibiotic-resistant germs.
Because of this, it makes infections harder and harder to treat.
Scientists and healthcare providers are concerned that due to this problem, there will soon be multiple infections that are not affected by ANY type of antibiotics and will be untreatable.
When are antibiotics NOT helpful?
Antibiotics ONLY work against bacteria. They do NOT work on infections caused by viruses.
Viruses are the cause of the common cold, most cases of sore throat (except for strep throat), most cases of sinusitis, and most cases of bronchitis.
What’s the harm in taking antibiotics?
- Antibiotics cause side effects! Gastrointestinal side effects such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea are common with antibiotics. They can also increase the risk of getting a yeast infection in females.
- There is a risk of allergies to antibiotics that can cause anything from a rash to a life-threatening reaction. It’s best to avoid the risk when possible.
- Overuse of antibiotics leads to antibiotic resistance. When you use antibiotics when they are not needed, it gives bacteria a chance to change and adjust to the antibiotics so that the same antibiotics cannot hurt them when used in the future.
Well, now I’m afraid to take ANY antibiotics! When SHOULD I take them?
You should take antibiotics when they are prescribed by your healthcare provider. Your healthcare provider has gone through extensive training on when it is appropriate to prescribe antibiotics and knows how to pick the correct antibiotics for a particular infection. Different types of antibiotics work against different types of bacteria, so it is important to NOT take antibiotics that were prescribed to you for a previous illness, or that were prescribed to a friend.
Is there anything I can do to help reduce antibiotic resistance?
- If you are prescribed antibiotics, make sure you take the ENTIRE prescription as directed. Do not skip doses or stop taking it once you start feeling better.
- Try not to pressure your healthcare provider into prescribing antibiotics if they do not feel like they would help you.
- Do not give your antibiotics to anyone else and do not take antibiotics that were prescribed to someone else.
If you have questions, please reach out to us at the Quincy Student Health and Wellness Center at (509) 787-8943. We are here to help!