As winter weather approaches, so does cold and flu season. This can bring a lot of sick patients into the office, wanting a quick fix for their illness. While being sick can be uncomfortable and very inconvenient, it does not always mean that antibiotics are the quick fix that you are looking for. Antibiotics can be critical in treating some serious illnesses, but can also cause more harm than good. Some providers feel pressure to prescribe antibiotics to patients who demand them. Patients expect and deserve to get something out of their visit when they pay to come to the office. Antibiotics are not always the answer. In fact, there are other treatments that your provider may offer you besides antibiotics that may help to relieve your symptoms. Some of these medications include anti-inflammatories, decongestants, and cough suppressants.
Patients should not be afraid of going to their provider for help but should understand and trust that their provider is giving them what is best for their current situation. For example, patients exhibiting symptoms of a viral infection would not be prescribed an antibiotic. Doing so would actually cause them to develop resistance to this drug. Therefore, it is important to understand why your provider may or may not give you antibiotics. Below is a chart that helps show which common illnesses typically do and do not require antibiotics. Again, a viral infection can be troublesome to some patients, so those patients seeking help should still see their provider with the understanding that they will be prescribed other treatment options besides antibiotics.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that about 28% of antibiotics prescribed in the United States are unnecessary. Why is this a problem? Overprescribing antibiotics has become a problem because it has created “super bugs” that are resistant to treatment. This means that some bacteria and fungi have learned how to outsmart the current treatment protocols, leaving no other options available.
In addition, antibiotics may lead to negative side effects that make patients more uncomfortable when already feeling “under the weather.” It is important that you tell your provider about any past reactions to antibiotics and take your medication as prescribed, as many of these side effects can be minimized or prevented.
An example of a current “super bug” is the sexually-transmitted bacteria gonorrhea. Gonorrhea has become an urgent health crisis in the U.S., according to the CDC. Gonorrhea is one of the most commonly diagnosed STDs and has been increasing 13% annually since 2014. Unfortunately, gonorrhea has become a drug-resistant bacteria that now only has ONE recommended treatment option. Even that one option has a treatment failure of 30%, making it extremely difficult to eradicate. Untreated gonorrhea can lead to life-threatening ectopic pregnancy, infertility, and an increased risk of HIV infection. It is easy to spread, as many men and women do not have symptoms. The only way that this health crisis can be slowed is for providers to follow the CDC guidelines and for patients to trust their providers. If treated with the wrong antibiotics or if patients choose not to finish the course of antibiotics prescribed by their provider, gonorrhea will continue to outsmart us.
Overall, antibiotic resistance is not a little issue. The CDC estimates that each year in the U.S., 2.8 million people are affected by antibiotic-resistant bacteria or fungi and over 35,000 people die as a results. It is extremely important that patient’s act not only to prevent infection, but to follow recommended instructions from their provider as well.
WHAT YOU CAN DO IF PRESCRIBED AN ANTIBIOTIC:
- Take your medication exactly as prescribed.
- Do not share your medication with others.
- If you have extra medication for some reason, do not save it. Speak with your pharmacist about the proper way to dispose of your extra medication.
- Do not take antibiotics from friends or family. This could delay treatment, make your infection worse or lead to adverse effects.
Want to test your knowledge about the use of antibiotics? Take the CDC’s online quiz!
CLICK HERE FOR QUIZ
TIPS TO HELP PREVENT INFECTION:
- WASH YOUR HANDS – before and after using the restroom, coughing, sneezing or touching another person who may be sick. Make sure to scrub with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds.
- Cover your cough
- Stay at home if you are sick.
- Cuts or wounds – cleanse and bandage. Avoid picking or scratching at your skin.
- Avoid sharing utensils, drinking glasses, tissues, or personal items with others.
- Make sure to clean and cook food thoroughly. Do not mix raw meat with uncooked materials or food.
- Stay up to date on your vaccinations – GET YOUR FLU SHOT! If traveling out of the country, make sure to research which vaccinations may be recommended prior to travel.
- Use condoms during sex and get routine STD screenings. It is recommended that you screen for STDs between all partners, in order to prevent spreading any disease.
- Visit your primary care provider annually for your physical exam and labs. Doing so can help identify potential problems or lifestyle changes that may help keep you healthy.
At Sapphire Health and Wellness, our providers use discretion in prescribing antibiotics in order to prevent worsening antibiotic resistance. Our providers with make sure that our patients are given the most appropriate and current treatments to heal their illness. Patients should feel comfortable discussing their options with our providers and should always leave their appointments understanding their treatment plan. Patients having any additional questions are encouraged to call the office or message their provider using the online patient portal.