Drug-resistant infections are on the rise. Here’s what you can do to stay safe.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently released an unsettling report revealing that 2.8 million antibiotic-resistant infections occur in the U.S. each year, which are to blame for more than 35,000 deaths. The takeaway? More bacteria and fungi are finding ways to survive the drugs designed to eliminate them.
Antibiotics have been helping us fight infections since the 1940s, but overuse, incorrect use and the evolution of bacteria are creating new problems, like harmful side effects and drug resistance, leaving us less able to treat certain common illnesses.
To keep your family, community and yourself safe, follow these steps for responsible antibiotic use.
- Minimize your risk of infection.
A great way to not overuse or misuse antibiotics is to not need them in the first place. You can reduce your chances of getting an infection by avoiding those who are sick; washing your hands often; not touching your eyes, nose and mouth; keeping cuts clean and covered until healed; staying up-to-date on your vaccinations; practicing safe sex; and preparing food safely.
- Know that antibiotics only treat bacterial infections.
Antibiotics cannot fight viral infections, like the flu and common cold. Don’t be surprised if your clinician doesn’t prescribe antibiotics for the stomach flu, bronchitis, a sore throat or cough, as these ailments are typically caused by viruses. Using an antibiotic for something other than a bacterial infection not only contributes to the likelihood of increasing resistance, it can lead to potentially dangerous side effects. If you’re experiencing symptoms, check the CDC’s guide to which common illnesses antibiotics can help with.
- Take antibiotics exactly as prescribed.
That means finishing the entire course and taking the med at the correct frequency. If you quit an antibiotic as soon as you start to feel better rather than finishing the entire supply, your infection could return. What’s worse, the remaining bacteria may become resistant to the antibiotic you were taking to treat it.
- Never use “leftover” antibiotics from a previous infection.
If you think you need medication to treat your infection, consult a medical professional. You should only take an antibiotic if it’s been prescribed to you for symptoms you’re currently experiencing. Your doctor needs to determine if the benefits of using an antibiotic outweigh the risks, and, if so, which antibiotic is most appropriate for the specific illness you’re dealing with.
- Talk to your doctor if you experience side effects on an antibiotic.
While antibiotics are busy stopping the bad bacteria that make us sick, they can also hurt the good bacteria that live in our bodies. A potential though relatively uncommon side effect of this process is the development of severe diarrhea caused by Clostridioides difficile, also known as C. diff. If you have severe diarrhea, abdominal pain, nausea and loss of appetite while taking an antibiotic, talk to your pharmacist or clinician right away.
This article is not medical advice. It is intended for general informational purposes and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your physician or dial 911. Blink Health is not insurance. The discount prescription drug provider is Blink Health Administration, LLC, 536 Broadway, 2nd Floor, New York, NY 10012, (844) 366–2211, www.blinkhealth.com