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When Antibiotics Stop Working, How Can We Fight Infections?

By Blue Cross NC | July 28, 2015 | Health Conditions

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We’re fighting a losing battle. Every time we find a new way to fight the terrifying bacteria that cause diseases, they develop a resistance to the treatment. Those treatments come in the form of Antibiotics and Antimicrobials, and can be lifesaving drugs for millions of people.

But there’s a major flaw in these “miracle” drugs. Up to 50% of the time antibiotics are not prescribed properly, or they’re prescribed when not needed, at an incorrect dosage or duration. This can kill good bacteria as well as bad, but won’t kill any drug-resistant bacteria. And we’re still learning about the difference between good and bad bacteria with research into the natural bacteria in your gut and probiotics showing us new information all the time. But without the good bacteria to help protect the body, the drug-resistant bacteria take over.

Image: CDC

There’s good news, though. Efforts to prevent antibiotic resistance build on the foundation of proven public health strategies. These tips can help you protect both you and your family from infections.

Healthy Habits

    • Wash Your Hands – Hand washing is like a “do-it-yourself” vaccine—it involves five simple and effective steps (think Wet, Lather, Scrub, Rinse, Dry) you can take to reduce the spread of diarrheal and respiratory illness so you can stay healthy. Regular hand washing is one of the best ways to remove germs, avoid getting sick, and prevent the spread of germs to others.
    • Stay Up-to-Date with Vaccines – Disease prevention is key to staying healthy. It is always better to prevent a disease than to treat it. Vaccines can protect both the people who receive them and those with whom they come in contact. Vaccines are responsible for the control of many infectious diseases that were once common in this country and around the world, including polio, measles, diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough), rubella (German measles), mumps, tetanus, and Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib). Over the years vaccines have prevented countless cases of infectious diseases and saved millions of lives. And, as it is every year, it’s incredibly important to get vaccinated for the Flu. Don’t let the myths around vaccinations scare you away!
    • Prevent the Spread of Food borne Infections – Following these simple steps will help keep your family safer from food poisoning at home.
    • Keep Your Water Safe Keeping your water safe and how you use your water can prevent infections from occurring.
    • Prevent the Spread of Sexually Transmitted Diseases – Take control and learn effective strategies to reduce STD risk. Know the facts and protect yourself and your partner.

Staying Safe When Sick

    • Use Antibiotics the Right Way – Are you aware that colds, flu, most sore throats, and bronchitis are caused by viruses? Did you know that antibiotics do not help fight viruses? It’s true; antibiotics do nothing to help against viruses. Plus, taking antibiotics when you have a virus may do more harm than good. Taking antibiotics when they are not needed increases your risk of getting an infection later that resists antibiotic treatment. Choosing Wisely has excellent resources on how to keep antibiotics working.
    • Learn When Respiratory Illnesses Need Antibiotics – Antibiotics aren’t always the answer for common respiratory infections. Antibiotics do not fight infections caused by viruses like colds, most sore throats and bronchitis, and some ear infections. Unneeded antibiotics may lead to future antibiotic-resistant infections. Symptom relief might be the best treatment option.
    • Feel Better with Symptom Relief – Children and adults with viral infections, which antibiotics cannot treat, usually recover when the illness has run its course. Colds, a type of viral infection, can last for up to two weeks. You should keep your healthcare provider informed if you or your child’s illness gets worse or lasts longer than expected. Over-the-counter medicines like pain relievers, cold and flu, and allergy and sinus medications may help relieve some symptoms.

[Top image: Shutterstock]