If you’ve been feeling ill, you might think an antibiotic is the quickest way to feel better. In fact, antibiotics are only effective in specific scenarios. And misusing antibiotics won’t just fail to make you feel better, it can lead to antibiotic resistance.
What is Antibiotic Resistance?
Antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria and fungi become resistant to the antibiotics that were designed to kill them. These antibiotic-resistant “superbugs” are difficult to treat, and often require hospital stays and ongoing treatment to cure the infection they’ve caused. In some cases, treatments are completely ineffective against the antibiotic-resistant germs resulting in death.
Is Antibiotic Resistance Harmful?
Yes. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in the U.S., more than 2.8 million people suffer from antibiotic-resistant infections annually, and 35,000+ people die as a result.
Antibiotic-resistant germs can affect people at any stage of life, but they also impact animals, agriculture and the environment across the world making them a global crisis.
When antibiotics lose their effectiveness, then healthcare providers lose the ability to treat infections and control public health threats. While germs are always looking for ways to resist new drugs, there are measures we can take to slow antibiotic resistance.
Misuse of antibiotics is one of the contributing factors to antibiotic resistance that we can work together to combat. Using antibiotics when they’re not needed, or not using antibiotics as directed can threaten the usefulness of these essential drugs.
“Patients and health care professionals alike can play an important role in combating antibiotic resistance. Patients should not demand antibiotics when a health care professional says the drugs are not needed. Health care professionals should prescribe antibiotics only for infections they believe to be caused by bacteria,” says the U.S. Food & Drug Administration.
Knowing what antibiotics can and cannot treat is a great place for patients to start!
What Can Be Treated with Antibiotics?
It’s a common misconception that viruses like colds or the flu can be treated with antibiotics. In fact, a recent study showed that 64 percent of people across the world mistakenly believe antibiotics can be used to treat colds and flu.
- Antibiotics are only needed for some infections caused by bacteria. These infections can include bacterial strep throat, urinary tract infections, sepsis and others.
- Not all bacterial infections require antibiotics. See your medical provider for an evaluation if you are experiencing symptoms of an infection.
- Viruses CANNOT be treated with antibiotics. Antibiotics are deemed ineffective against viruses like a cold, the flu or COVID-19. See your medical provider for an evaluation if you are experiencing symptoms of an infection.
How Can I Prevent Antibiotic Resistance?
Understanding what can be effectively treated with antibiotics – and that antibiotics aren’t always the answer – brings us closer to the goal of avoiding unnecessary antibiotic prescriptions. Healthcare professionals also recommend you:
- Don’t share medications! Taking someone else’s antibiotic or leftover antibiotic pills when you’re feeling ill can be dangerous to your health and can contribute to antibiotic resistance.
- Take all of your medications as prescribed. Make sure to complete the entire course of treatment prescribed by your healthcare provider, even if you’re feeling better.
To learn more about how you can be antibiotics aware, visit the CDC’s website for resources about antibiotic prescribing and use.