Antibiotic resistance is a big problem. You’ve all heard about Methicillin-Resistant Staph Aureus (MRSA) causing skin and soft tissue infections but now there is a growing group of resistant bacteria. What this means is many folks may face treatment with an intravenous antibiotic or older more toxic antibiotic to treat common infections like E. Coli urinary tract infections. This is because the bacteria have gotten smart and know how to resist penicillins, ciprofloxacin and Bactrim among others.
There are some ways you can try not to be part of the problem:
1. Just say no. Viral infections like colds, flus, most coughs, bronchitis and sore throats don’t need antibiotics. Patients come every day asking for antibiotics for these problems and they won’t help you, and may even hurt you. Symptom relief is the answer here.
2. Every time you take an antibiotic, sensitive bacteria are killed but resistant germs may be left to grow and multiply. Clostridium difficile (C-diff) diarrhea is just one example of what can “overgrow” when we take antibiotics.
3. When you are sick, ask your doctor whether an antibiotic is beneficial for your illness and ask what else you can do to feel better sooner. Please know this often does not include antibiotic therapy.
4. Do not save some of your antibiotic for next time you get sick, throw away any leftover medication.
5. If you do need an antibiotic, have your doctor use one that is targeting the likely pathogen and not a “big gun” antibiotic they may have samples of. Patients often says things like “I want something stronger than amoxicillin,” but know that stronger is not necessarily better and a targeted antibiotic is what you want.
6. The use of antibacterial-containing products (for hand washing and cleaning surfaces) has not been proven to prevent the spread of infection better than products that don’t contain antibacterial chemicals. We don’t know yet whether this may contribute to antibiotic resistance but in some animal studies it does.
7. Long-term antibiotics, like minocycline or doxycycline for acne as an example, will contribute to the development of antibiotic resistance. Use topical or other options first.
8. While many skin and soft tissue infections do require antibiotics, many others don’t. Ingrown toenails, a stye on your eye, or an inflamed bug bite don’t need antibiotics. Not everything that is red and puffy is infected, and your doctor can reassure you if it’s something that will resolve without antibiotics.
9. Antibiotics in your food. Treatment of farm animals with antibiotics accounts for half of the world’s antibiotic use. This has selected for resistant bacteria that may contaminate the food produced. Examples include antibiotic-resistant enterococci and staphylococci from animals that are found in food when the bacteria survive the production processes, as in raw cured sausages and raw milk cheeses.
10. When in the hospital as a patient or a visitor you may see “contact isolation” signs on the doors. Isolation from any bacteria means you must use the disposable gowns/gloves and wash your hands before and after you enter. Don’t spread the problem.