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Antibiotics: Life-Saving for Some, Harmful to Others

Antibiotics: Life-Saving for Some, Harmful to Others

The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention’s (CDC) U.S. Antibiotic Awareness Week (previously “Get Smart About Antibiotics Week”) kicked off November 13, 2017. This week is devoted to promoting awareness of antibiotic resistance and misuse to improve patient care and safety across the country.

Did you know?

The CDC estimates that one in every three prescriptions for an antibiotic is unnecessary. These unnecessary antibiotics can cause unwanted and potentially harmful side effects. In 2013 and 2014, over 25 percent of emergency department visits due to medication side effects resulted in hospitalization with antibiotics being leading cause of these emergency department visits in children.

These unnecessary antibiotics can also lead to an increase in resistance which has the potential to make treatment of infections caused by certain organisms much more difficult. Over two million infections and over 23,000 deaths are caused by antibiotic resistant organisms in the United States each year.

While antibiotics can be life-saving medications for some patients, many will not benefit from taking them. Antibiotics are primarily used to treat infections caused by bacteria. Infections like the common cold are caused by viruses which antibiotics will not treat. Your doctor or local healthcare professional will be able to assess your individual need for antibiotics.

What can you do?

Now that the flu season is upon us, patients seeking relief from a cough, runny nose and sore throat is becoming more common. These common cold symptoms can be treated with medications other than antibiotics and will actually help you feel better. Many of these medications are available over-the-counter at your local pharmacy. 

When seeking relief from a cough, runny nose or sore throat, ask whether your symptoms are likely caused by a virus or bacteria. Depending on your individual risk factors you may not need an antibiotic, but be sure to ask what medications may help you feel better.

Additional resources can be found on CDC website or by speaking with your local healthcare professional.

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