Antibiotic Awareness Week, which takes place from November 18 through November 24, is an annual observance that highlights the threat of antibiotic resistance and the importance of appropriate antibiotic use.
What are antibiotics?
Antibiotics are important medications that are used to treat infections caused by bacteria in humans and animals by either killing the bacteria or making it difficult for the bacteria to grow and multiply. Viral illnesses cannot be treated with antibiotics.
Why is antibiotic awareness important?
Antibiotic awareness is important because the overuse and misuse of antibiotics are key factors contributing to antibiotic resistance. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that about 47 million antibiotic courses are prescribed for infections that do not need antibiotics, such as viruses.
The general public, doctors, and hospitals all play a role in ensuring the proper use of medications and minimizing the development of antibiotic resistance.
What are some best practices when thinking about antibiotics? What questions should you ask your doctor?
- Only take antibiotics when indicated and prescribed by your doctor.
- Do not share antibiotics with others or save antibiotics for later.
- Never pressure your doctor to prescribe an antibiotic. Talk to your doctor about the best treatment if you are sick.
What are some common myths or bad habits when it comes to antibiotic use?
- Myth 1: Antibiotics can be used to treat colds and flu.
These infections are typically caused by viruses, and antibiotics are used to treat bacteria. Taking antibiotics when you don’t need them can lead to bacterial resistance.
- Myth 2: Certain antibiotics can help with COVID-19 symptoms.
COVID-19 is a virus and will not respond to antibiotics.
- Myth 3: The more antibiotics you take, the more effective they become.
Every course of antibiotics you take may increase the chance of resistance, potentially rendering them less effective. There is no guarantee that one course won’t have the same effect as several. Furthermore, you could experience unwanted side effects such as diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting.
Top 5 things to know about antibiotics and antibiotic resistance:
- The first antibiotic, penicillin, was discovered in the late 1920s, but it wasn’t used to treat infections until the 1940s. Since the early 2000s, the development of new antibiotics has slowed while resistance has increased.
- Antimicrobial resistance is recognized as one of the greatest threats to human health worldwide.
- Taking unnecessary antibiotics may do more harm than good. Bacteria become resistant to antibiotics over time, making it harder to treat bacterial infections. Drug-resistant bacteria make it harder to find effective antibiotic options when you do face a severe infection.
- In the United States, 70% of all antibiotics sold are used on farms to fight off infection in livestock and enhance their growth.
- Antibiotic resistance leads to longer hospital stays, higher medical costs, and increased mortality.
Meet the Antimicrobial Stewards at Cooper
“As an antimicrobial stewardship team, we review patients on antimicrobials to ensure safety, efficacy, and optimal treatment for infections. We help develop protocols and policies around antibiotic use inpatient and outpatient. Our overall goal is to optimize appropriate use of antibiotics to minimize resistance and improve outcomes on a patient, hospital, and ultimately global level. We love interacting with medical teams to help guide antimicrobial management and encourage clinicians to page or call us anytime!” -Alexandra Hanretty, PharmD
Infectious disease specialists at Cooper diagnose and evaluate infections caused by bacteria, viruses, and other organisms. We assist in the treatment of disease through the use of antibiotics and other agents, and aid in the prevention of disease by vaccination against infection. Cooper infectious disease specialists also staff the Early Intervention Program for individuals affected by the HIV. Learn more about our programs for adults and children by clicking here to visit our website.