OP-ED: The Role of Antibiotics in Modern Health Care | For free

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I was up with a cough all night and couldn’t sleep. My head hurt and my body was in pain. My illness did not go away so I sought help. I went to my doctor because I needed medication and treatment. I couldn’t miss any more time from work.

I saw my doctor, who greeted me with a mask, and led me into the examination room. He asked me a few questions, listened to my chest, looked at my eyes and neck, and checked my ears. I had a nose and throat swab, left the doctor’s office, and waited at home for the result. I had a swab stuck up my nose and it hurt! I’m definitely entitled to at least one antibiotic, right?

The results were negative for strep and COVID-19. My doctor told me my illness was most likely caused by a virus. For my “treatment” the doctor said I should drink a lot and use other over-the-counter medications. I should come back in a week if symptoms got worse. I was upset and exhausted from the seemingly worthless ordeal. I asked my doctor why couldn’t I get an antibiotic? I had to get better quickly and go back to work!

The doctor told me that antibiotics were drugs that only fight infections caused by bacteria, like urinary tract infections and strep throat, or life-threatening conditions caused by bacteria, like sepsis, the body’s extreme response to infection.

My doctor realized my frustration and calmly answered my questions. “Antibiotics won’t work on viruses that cause upper respiratory infections and runny noses, for example, even if the mucus is thick, yellow or green. Most sore throats are viral, so antibiotics won’t work. Antibiotics also don’t work for the flu, some ear infections, or even colds like bronchitis. These diseases will improve on their own without antibiotic treatment. Taking antibiotics when not needed won’t help you, and their side effects can cause harm. Side effects are rash, nausea, diarrhea, yeast infections, abdominal pain and worrying antibiotic-resistant infections. “

The CDC estimates that about 47 million antibiotic courses, or 28% of all antibiotic prescriptions, are for non-antibiotic infections, including upper respiratory tract infections and the flu (Rima Khabbaz, 2021). To highlight the need for careful use of these drugs, an antibiotic education week will be held from November 18-24, 2021. It is important that patients understand the purpose of antibiotics and their appropriate place in health management. The unnecessary use of antibiotics leads to antibiotic resistance. Infections caused by bacteria resistant to antibiotics are difficult and sometimes impossible to treat. In many cases, antibiotic-resistant infections are costly, require longer hospital stays, and lead to additional follow-up visits to the doctor. Antibiotic resistance is a pressing public health problem, causing over 2.8 million infections and more than 35,000 deaths annually in the United States alone (Rima Khabbaz, 2021).

Antibiotics are important to treating many types of bacterial infections and have saved many lives. Antibiotics must be used wisely to maintain their usefulness in treating disease. When antibiotics are needed, the benefits outweigh the risks of side effects or antibiotic resistance. If your doctor decides your illness requires an antibiotic, take the medication exactly as your doctor has told you. Don’t share your antibiotics with anyone or save them for later. Taking antibiotics only when needed and exactly as prescribed is an important way to protect yourself and your family from antibiotic resistance.

Another way to avoid the need for antibiotics is to stay healthy. Do this by:

1) Clean your hands.

2) wearing a face mask in crowded areas.

3) Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.

4) Avoid close contact with people with upper respiratory infections.

5) Receiving recommended vaccines such as flu and COVID-19 vaccines.

If you get sick, don’t push your doctor to prescribe an antibiotic. Sometimes the best treatment is over-the-counter drugs.

The CDC works to promote the correct use of antibiotics by helping doctors choose the right antibiotic, in the right dose, for the right duration, and at the right time. This will reduce unnecessary antibiotic prescriptions. Newman Regional Health has established an Antimicrobial Stewardship Committee to support the appropriate use of antibiotics and reduce the spread of infections from antibiotic-resistant bacteria. This multidisciplinary team includes infection prevention, microbiology, pharmacy and the management of doctors Dr. Derek Brown, Ryan Lasota, Matthew Turner, and Catherine Grote for leading the safest, most effective treatment for infections for patients in our community.

References

Rima Khabbaz. (2021, August 23). Questions and answers about antibiotic resistance. Retrieved from CDC.gov: https://www.cdc.gov/antibiotic-use/antibiotic-resistance.html


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