What You Should Know About Antibiotics
If you have an infection, your doctor prescribes you antibiotics. You go to the pharmacy to pick them up, and the pharmacist gives you an unenthusiastic breakdown of how to take them, what not to take when you’re on them, and what they’ll do—as if she’s said this a thousand times (she has). Everyone is so casual about antibiotics, that it makes you feel at ease about taking them. And, for the most part, you should feel that way since in many cases, your health depends heavily on them. But any time we take something that greatly alters what’s happening inside of our bodies, from birth control pills to laxatives, we should know a little bit about them. Antibiotics are no different. Here are things you should know about antibiotics that your doctor probably won’t tell you.
Here’s who takes them the most
Animals actually take the most antibiotics, followed by children, then the elderly.
They can have adverse effects
Seventy percent of drugs that cause adverse drug effects (ADE) resulting in emergency room visits are antibiotics. Antibiotics cause the most ADE-related emergency room visits for children.
We often don’t need them at all
Nearly 30 percent of antibiotics prescribed are not necessary, particularly for things like upper respiratory infections, sinus and ear infections. These types of infections typically clear up on their own.
You may be on the wrong one
Doctors also often prescribe the wrong type of antibiotics, an incorrect dosage, or an incorrect time frame in which to take it. Studies suggest 20 percent of antibiotic use involves one of these scenarios.
Drug resistance can be deadly
In some cases, prescribing an antibiotic to someone with a viral infection can cause that person to develop a resistance to the drug, which can, in turn, make their condition more severe.
Antibiotic resistance is contagious
If an antibiotic does not succeed in killing all infectious bacteria, the ones that survive may multiply, and actually manifest on the surface of one’s skin. This is how antibiotic resistance can jump from one person to another.
They can’t cure the common cold or flu
Antibiotics cannot kill the viruses that cause colds and flus—antibiotics only attack bacterial infections. Taking antibiotics for the common cold or flu will only strengthen resistant bacteria in your body, without helping you get better.
The economic breakdown
Antibiotic use appears to be more prevalent in lower-income countries. The spread of antibiotic resistance in lower-income countries has been rapid and quite problematic over the past couple of decades.
You may feel better, but the antibiotic isn’t finished
If you have a bacterial infection, you will likely begin to feel much better before you’ve finished taking the prescribed dosage of the antibiotic. You should not, however, stop taking it because the bacteria is likely still alive in your body.
For viral infections, stop as soon as possible
With a bacterial infection, you should take your entire prescribed dosage of antibiotic. However, if you’re suffering a viral infection and are on antibiotics, you can and should stop taking them when you begin to feel better since antibiotics should not necessarily be used in these types of infections.
Expired antibiotics are dangerous
If you have some antibiotics remaining from an old sickness and you become sick again, do not take those; get a new prescription from your doctor. Expired antibiotics can increase bacteria resistance more than new ones.
You can develop resistance after one dose
Many people believe the misconception that you need to take several doses of antibiotics for years to build up a resistance to them. You can, in fact, develop a resistance after just one dosage.
Patients pressure their doctors
It’s not entirely the medical industry’s fault for the over-prescription and wrongful-prescription of antibiotics. Patients often demand them of their doctors, insisting they need them immediately to feel better. Never pressure your doctor to prescribe you antibiotics; if he doesn’t think you need them, you don’t.
These drug-resistant infections can be deadly
Drug-resistant clostridium difficile, drug-resistant E. coli and drug-resistant gonorrhea can be life-threatening. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention classify these as “urgent” threats to one’s health.