Story by: Sara Thompson on July 11, 2022
When you’re sick, you want to feel better faster. You might think antibiotics are always the answer, but that’s not exactly true. Are antibiotics “bad” for you? No. And also yes. Read on to learn when to use antibiotics — and when not to.
Antibiotics are a group of medicines that fight infections caused by bacteria, either by killing the bacteria or making it difficult for the bacteria to grow and multiply. There are many different groups of antibiotics, including penicillins and tetracyclines. While the development of antibiotics revolutionized medicine, their overuse is one of the most pressing health concerns today.
Since antibiotics are effective on bacteria, they are used to treat illnesses — such as whooping cough (pertussis), strep throat and urinary tract infections (UTI) — which are spread by bacteria. You do NOT need to take antibiotics for viral infections such as the common cold, flu, stomach flu or bronchitis.
When an antibiotic no longer words to kill a bacterium, the bacteria is considered “antibiotic resistant.” These bacteria then can replicate and pass on resistance to other bacteria, thus making the germs harder and harder to kill. Taking an antibiotic you don’t need causes the antibodies to attack your own body’s bacteria, such as the “good bugs” of your gut. This can pass resistance to harmless bacteria, which creates problems as well.
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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 28% of the antibiotics prescribed in the U.S. each year are not necessary or are ineffective against the illnesses they are meant to treat (such as a cold).
Now, the world faces the results of these medication-resistant infections, including:
There are many ways to do your part in curbing medication-resistant bacteria. Here are a few:
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