Ask the pharmacist: Using and abusing antibiotics
Antibiotic resistance is a threat to our health care system, leading to slower recoveries, complicated treatment regimens, increased expenditures and even death. Antibiotic resistance happens when bacteria evolve to withstand the effects of an antibiotic. So, despite treatment, the bacteria continue to grow and multiply. Although it is expected, resistance is developing at a much faster rate than anticipated by the medical community. Simply put, over-use and abuse are the driving forces of resistance. Despite being a known problem, antibiotics continue to be misused.
What can you do as a patient?
Stop demanding antibiotics. Prescribers often wait for test results to confirm whether an infection is bacterial or viral. Bacterial infections are typically treated with antibiotics, but some infections require a ‘wait and see’ approach, meaning an antibiotic may only be prescribed after the infection meets specified criteria. If it’s a viral infection—such as a cold or flu—no antibiotic in the world will cure it.
When antibiotics are required and prescribed, take them as directed. Prescriptions typically indicate a finite number of days for treatment. Skipping doses risks leaving an infection unresolved and failing to complete a course of treatment increases the chance of a flare-up. Even if you feel better, bacteria may still be present in the body and can potentially adapt to, and overcome the effects of, the antibiotic.
If treatment is aborted, do not save the antibiotics for later or give them to someone else. Taking inappropriate antibiotics may delay effective treatment, interact with other medications, trigger an allergic reaction, or allow bacteria to adjust and overcome the effects of the antibiotic used.