Antibiotics: Not always the best medicine

It’s that time of year again! It seems like everyone we know is coming down with an illness. Whether it is influenza, pneumonia, an upper respiratory infection, the common cold, or a stomach bug; we all know someone who has something.

The first step for many people fighting one of these illnesses is to head to their healthcare provider for an antibiotic. Antibiotics are strong medications that are used to kill bacteria. There are numerous choices and formulations available. We are now learning that antibiotics have been overprescribed for many years and as a result of this overuse, we have new bacteria that can resist our antibiotics. These resistant bacteria are causing infections that are much more difficult – and costly – to treat.  Antibiotic-resistant infections can be contagious and can affect anyone.

Antibiotic misuse is causing an influx of “super bugs” in our communities. MRSA (methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus) is the super bug getting the most publicity in the last ten years. This bacteria most often causes skin and soft tissue infections but can also cause life-threatening bloodstream infections or pneumonia. MSSA (methicillin-susceptible staphylococcus aureus) can be treated easily with safe, cheap, and common antibiotics. MRSA, on the contrary, often requires hospitalization and intravenous antibiotics that are costly, have increased toxicities and more side effects.

So what does this mean for our community? First, remember that antibiotics have no effect on viruses like common colds and influenza.  It is currently estimated that half of the prescribed antibiotics in the US are not needed.  Next, don’t request or even demand antibiotics from your prescriber. Let the healthcare provider appropriately assess you and your symptoms.  Lastly, understand that antibiotics do have a very important place in community health. When bacteria are the cause of an infection (strep throat, urinary tract infection, wound infections); antibiotics are incredibly useful.

This winter, take extra care to reduce your chances of getting sick. Wash hands often and with soap and water. Don’t share personal items like towels or razors. Get up to date on your vaccinations and get plenty of rest. If you do receive a prescription for an antibiotic, take it as prescribed. Don’t skip doses or stop the medicine early. Do not share antibiotics or use leftover antibiotics.

If you have questions or concerns regarding antibiotics or antibiotic-resistance, reach out to your pharmacist or your health care provider.

Pocahontas Memorial Hospital wants to wish everyone a Healthy and Happy Holiday!