The Gist of It
- Antibiotics are useless against viral infections like colds, most sore throats, flu, etc, and will not help you get better.
- Taking antibiotics needlessly or incorrectly is not harmless, and could lead to reinfection and more serious drug-resistant illnesses.
- Take care of your health by eating nutritious food, drinking water, exercising often and sleeping adequately instead of banking on antibiotics.
Superbugs, otherwise known as antibiotic-resistant bacteria, are becoming more and more common in today’s society. This happens because of our lackadaisical attitude towards antiobiotics.
Have the sniffles? Antibiotics. Got a sinus infection? Antibiotics. Terrible sore throat that feel like a thousand saws hacking away at your throat? Antibiotics.
Because of our misconception that antibiotics can cure everything, over-prescription of the drug is now becoming a huge concern.
Not only are antibiotics useless against viral infections, they are contributing to our bodies becoming antibiotic resistant. When that happens, the antibiotics will lose the power to fight off bad bacteria in our body.
Taking Antibiotics Just in Case
Researchers from George Washington, Cornell, and Johns Hopkins university published a study in December last year which revealed how little patients understand about the effects of antibiotics.
While most of them seem to know that antibiotics can’t fight against viral infections, they don’t see the harm in taking it anyway.
“More than half of the patients we surveyed already knew that antibiotics don’t work against viruses, but they still agreed with taking antibiotics just in case,” said lead researcher Dr. David A. Broniatowski, assistant professor in George Washington’s School of Engineering and Applied Science.
“Patients figure that taking antibiotics can’t hurt, and just might make them improve. When they come in for treatment, they are usually feeling pretty bad and looking for anything that will make them feel better. These patients know that there is, in theory, a risk of side effects when taking antibiotics, but they interpret that risk as essentially nil,” said Broniatowski.
The Effects of Antibiotics Misuse Aren’t Nil
Taking antibiotics when you don’t really need them isn’t harmless. And to understand why you first need to understand how antibiotics work.
How Antibiotics Work
Antibiotics are basically drugs that fight infections caused by bacteria.
When you take an antibiotic, it kills the bacteria in your body. There are good bacteria and bad bacteria, but antibiotics don’t discriminate and will also kill off your resident good bacteria.
A course of antibiotics which kills off the good bacteria keeping you healthy could pave the way for other bacteria to multiple, leading to other infections and sicknesses.
However, short, infrequent courses of antibiotics wouldn’t damage an otherwise healthy person. The keywords being short and infrequent.
If you’re constantly overdosing on antibiotics, you’re essentially upsetting the environment which your good bacteria lives, and increasing your risk of other infections.
Every time you take a course of antibiotics, you kill off some of the bacteria, but there will be some resistant ones left which will grow and multiply. If you repeatedly use antibiotics to treat illnesses that antibiotics have no effect on, you’re just giving room for these mutated bacteria to grow and transfer their antibiotic-resistant properties to other bacteria.
Antibiotic-resistant microbes make it really difficult to treat what should’ve been a simple infection, because simple drugs don’t work anymore.
This means more serious illnesses, prolonged recovery time, more expensive treatments, and even more deaths from previously treatable illnesses.
What You Can Do to Prevent Antibiotic-Resistant Infections
The first thing is to realise that antibiotics aren’t a cure-all. Antibiotics can only kill off bacteria, so treating infections caused by viruses with antibiotics isn’t a smart idea.
Antibiotics are useless on viral infections, which includes:
- Most coughs
- Most sore throats
- Some ear infections
- Some sinus infections
- Stomach flu
The next time you’re feeling horrid and want a quick fix at the doctor’s office, remember that antibiotics aren’t always the solution. Do these instead:
- Do not pester your doctor for antibiotics unless he / she has identified that your infection is caused by bacteria.
- Finish the full cycle of antibiotics if you’ve been prescribed. Don’t skip doses or leave your cycle incomplete or you’ll be helping some of the bad bacteria survive which could lead to reinfection.
- Don’t take old, leftover antibiotics.
- Do not self-prescribe antibiotics.
- Don’t take someone else’s antibiotics.
Instead of relying on medication to make you feel better, the best way is to lead a healthy lifestyle filled with nutritious food, regular exercise and adequate sleep to prevent infections. Also, remember to wash your hands!
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