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Getting Smart About Antibiotics

Getting Smart About Antibiotics

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have declared November 17-23, 2014 as their annual “Get Smart About Antibiotics” week, “to raise awareness of the threat of antibiotic resistance and the importance of appropriate antibiotic prescribing and use.”

Why an awareness week about something so commonplace? The CDC shares some statistics that may surprise you:

The problem lies in the distinction between viruses and bacterial infections. Those colds, stuffy noses, and sore throats going around at your workplace or school? Most likely these are viral in nature, and those antibiotics you may have gotten prescribed aren’t going to work. Click here to see the CDC’s chart on what does, and what doesn’t, require a course of antibiotics.

Now, when an antibiotic is called for, it’s mission critical that you or your children take it exactly as prescribed and for as long as it is prescribed. No tossing those pills early just because you feel better. In fact, throwing away the pills is another public health and safety concern, as improperly discarded medications are an ongoing issue for the environment.

Want to find out how antibiotic savvy you are? Check out the CDC’s quiz “Know When Antibiotics Work” here.

So, what happens when we overuse antibiotics? We exacerbate the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which leaves us without recourse to treat a number of once-simple diseases that can now become fatal. We can also make some of the common steps we take as routine preventative measures (such as a course of antibiotics prior to a surgical procedure) ineffective if not dangerous in themselves.

The Antibiotic Resistance (AR) Initiative is a long-term project by the CDC to:

The goal? The AR Initiative could achieve a:

You can learn more about the initiative here.

So the next time you feel one of those typical seasonal illnesses coming on, be sure to discuss with your doctor whether antibiotics are really the solution or if it’s just a case of good old bed rest, Kleenex, cough drops, and a dose of patience until it passes.

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