If you get an infection today – even a serious one that lands you in a hospital bed – you probably feel confident you will be prescribed some medicine that will cure you. Antibiotics are those medicines used to treat infections caused by bacteria. They are used to treat infections such as urinary tract infections, skin infections and infected wounds.
Antibiotics have saved millions of lives since they were first introduced in the 1940s. However, because they have been overused/ misused, bacteria have developed RESISTANCE to many of them, that is, they are no longer effective against the bacteria they once killed or inhibited from reproducing.
WHAT CAUSES BACTERIA TO DEVELOP RESISTANCE TO ANTIBIOTICS?
It is inevitable that any medicine will lose its ability to kill bacteria over time since bacteria naturally, through genetic adaptation, become resistant to antibiotics. We are however speeding up this process by our bad medicine use habits such as:
- Self-Medication: This is when medicine is used to treat self-recognized symptoms without consulting a doctor. This can cause bacteria to continue multiplying irrespective of presence of the medicine because the medicine taken may be unnecessary, inadequate, or used in incorrect doses.
- Non-compliance with recommended treatments: This occurs when one forgets to take medication, prematurely discontinues the medication as they begin to feel better, or cannot afford a full course of therapy.
- Inappropriate use of antibiotics by doctors: Sometimes doctors, because they lack all the necessary information to make an accurate diagnosis, may prescribe an antibiotic that is not specific to the infection being treated. When that antibiotic is taken, susceptible bacteria are killed, and the resistant bacteria are left to grow and multiply.
WHAT CAN YOU DO TO PREVENT THE SPREAD OF ANTIBIOTIC RESISTANCE?
- Do not take an antibiotic when it is not prescribed for you by your doctor. Antibiotics do not treat viral infection like a cold or the flu.
- Do not save some of your antibiotic for the next time you get sick. Return any leftover medication to the pharmacy once you have completed your prescribed course of treatment.
- Take an antibiotic exactly as your doctor or pharmacist tells you. Do not skip doses. Complete the prescribed course of treatment even if you are feeling better. If the concern is about the cost, ask your doctor to recommend a cheaper equally effective alternative.
- Do not take antibiotics prescribed for someone else. They may not be appropriate for your illness.
- If your doctor determines that you do not have a bacterial infection, ask about ways to help relieve your symptoms. Do not pressure them to prescribe an antibiotic.