’Tis the season… for colds and the flu! Don’t you just love when you go to the doctor, he or she prescribes an antibiotic for you or your child - and BAM, you’re feeling better in 24 hours? What about when that antibiotic doesn’t work? This can happen because of two reasons. First, your ailments are caused by a virus, not a bacteria, or second, the bacteria is antibiotic resistant.
Antibiotics do not work on viruses, such as those that cause colds, flu, bronchitis, or runny noses. When antibiotics aren’t needed, they won’t help, and the side effects could still cause harm. Talk with your doctor if you do develop side effects, especially severe diarrhea, which can lead to dehydration. Below is a chart from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of common conditions that do and do not require antibiotics.
Antibiotic resistance does not mean the body is becoming resistant to antibiotics; it means that the bacteria have become resistant to the antibiotics designed to kill them. They have developed the ability to defeat these drugs, and as a result, the germs are not killed, they continue to grow and are therefore difficult to treat. Antibiotic resistance has the potential to affect people at any stage of life, but some people are at greater risk than others (for example, people with chronic illnesses and those undergoing surgery or cancer therapy). Each year in the United States, at least 2 million people are infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and at least 23,000 people die as a result.
Germs will always look for ways to survive and resist new drugs. How can we be “germ smart” for ourselves and for our children? Here are a few guidelines…
- Take antibiotics exactly as prescribed. Do not stop taking the medication because you feel better.
- Do not self-diagnose and use leftover antibiotics found in your medicine cabinet. Eye drops for conjunctivitis is a common one.
- Stay home when you are sick, and keep children home from school.
- Catch coughs and sneezes in your elbow rather than hands.
- Practice good handwashing (scrubbing for at least 20 seconds).
- Get recommended vaccines, such as the flu vaccine.