Opioids aren’t the only drug at the root of a public health threat in the United States. But, you might be surprised to learn that overuse of antibiotics, which are meant to save lives can lead to a life-threatening condition.
Any time you take an antibiotic, you can experience side effects, one of which is long-term—antibiotic resistance. About 30 percent of antibiotic prescriptions filled are unnecessary, according to the CDC. The problem with overuse of antibiotics is that bacteria get stronger and smarter and can eventually defeat the drugs designed to kill them. And, to complicate matters, you don’t know this until you require treatment with an antibiotic to combat a serious bacterial infection, and it has no impact.
This is no small problem: the CDC estimates that 2 million Americans get infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria and at least 23,000 of them die as a result each year.
In the midst of cold and flu season, many of us will flock to the doctor seeking relief from our misery. And, it’s only natural to expect that said doctor will prescribe something—anything to make it go away.
Pharmacist candidate Ashley Blazewick points out that this is precisely where antibiotic resistance can begin to take root, emphasizing:
- Antibiotics cannot cure the common cold or flu. Antibiotics are only effective against illnesses caused by bacterial infections.
- The common cold and flu are both infections caused by viruses.
- The common cold almost always gets better on its own, but patients may benefit from over-the-counter medications to manage their symptoms.
- Even viruses that cause bronchitis or runny noses with thick, colored mucus do not respond to antibiotics.
- Most people with the flu have mild illness and do not need medical care or medications. However, in more severe cases, there are medications that a doctor may prescribe called ‘antivirals.’
When antibiotics aren’t needed, they won’t help you, and the side effects could still cause harm. Common side effects of antibiotics can include:
- Yeast infections
Antibiotics should be reserved for treating serious infections, such as pneumonia and life-threatening conditions including sepsis, the body’s extreme response to an infection.
Your best defense against cold and flu is prevention. To stay healthy and keep others healthy:
- Clean your hands
- Cover your cough
- Stay home when sick
- Get the flu shot