By Jessica Howard, PharmD
Antimicrobial Stewardship Pharmacist, Shore Medical Center
U.S. Antibiotic Awareness Week is celebrated Nov. 18-24. This is a global campaign to raise awareness of antimicrobial resistance worldwide and encourages best practices among the general public, healthcare workers and policy makers to slow the development and spread of drug-resistant infections. Misuse and overuse of antibiotics is the main cause of antimicrobial resistance. Antimicrobials include antibiotics, antifungals, antiparasitics and antivirals. Everyone can help improve antibiotic use! Improving the way we take antibiotics helps keep us healthy, fights antimicrobial resistance and ensures that life-saving antibiotics will be available for future generations. Here are some facts about antimicrobials and ways to fight resistance:
- Antibiotics should only be used to treat infections caused by bacteria. Many sinus infections and some ear infections do not even require antibiotics.
- Do NOT use antibiotics to treat viruses like colds, flu or COVID-19. Sometimes antivirals can be used to treat viruses. Most respiratory viruses will usually go away in a week or two without treatment.
- When antibiotics aren’t needed, they won’t help you, and the side effects could cause harm. In a patient who has a bacterial infection, the benefits outweigh the risks of side effects.
- If you need antibiotics, take them exactly as prescribed and speak to your healthcare professional if you have any questions.
- Taking antibiotics can contribute to the development of antimicrobial resistance. When antimicrobial resistance occurs, germs, like bacteria and fungi, develop the ability to defeat the drugs that are designed to kill them. The drugs lose their effectiveness, which threatens our ability to treat common infections. There aren’t many new antibiotics being developed, so we need to preserve the antibiotics that are currently available, using them only when necessary.
- Stay healthy by washing your hands, using soap and water for at least 20 seconds or a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol, covering your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, staying home when sick and getting recommended vaccines.