Antibiotics only when needed


CULLMAN, Ala. – Alabama State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris recently released information about the importance of taking antibiotics only when appropriate, due to concerns about increased antibiotic resistance from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

While antibiotics are useful in killing germs, their use cause antibiotic resistance to develop. This occurs when germs mutate to withstand the antibiotic. The germs, including bacteria and fungi, are not killed by the medication and continue to increase. 

The CDC considers antibiotic resistance and antibiotic-resistant infections to be one of the most critical threats to public health in the United States and worldwide. Almost 3 million infections occur in the country yearly with more than 35,000 deaths attributed to antibiotic resistance. 

The resistance does not imply that the body is resistant to the medication, rather the germs that live in the body are not killed by the medication as intended. Once antibiotic resistance is developed by the bacteria, the medication cannot kill them and the germs multiply. 

The infections that are resistant to antibiotics are difficult, if not impossible, to treat. The germs circulate through hospitals, nursing homes, food supplies, communities, soil and water. 

Below is information provided by the CDC: 

  • Antibiotics can save lives. When a patient needs antibiotics, the benefits outweigh the risks of side effects and antibiotic resistance. 
  • Antibiotics do NOT treat viruses, like those that cause colds, flu or COVID-19. 
  • Antibiotics are only needed for treating certain infections caused by bacteria, but even some bacterial infections get better without antibiotics. Antibiotics are not needed for many sinus infections and some ear infections. Antifungal drugs treat fungal infections. 
  • An antibiotic will not make you feel better if you have a virus. Respiratory viruses usually go away in a week or two without treatment. Ask your health care professional about the best way to feel better while your body fights off the virus. 
  • When antibiotics are not needed, they won’t help you, and the side effects could still cause harm. Side effects range from minor to very severe health problems. When you need antibiotics for a bacterial infection, the benefits usually outweigh the risk of side effects. 
  • Taking antibiotics can contribute to the development of antibiotic resistance. Antibiotic resistance occurs when germs like bacteria and fungi develop the ability to defeat the drugs designed to kill them. If antibiotics lose their effectiveness, then we lose the ability to treat infections, like those that lead to sepsis. 
  • If you need antibiotics, take them exactly as prescribed. Talk with your health care professional if you have any questions about your antibiotics. 
  • Talk with your health care professional if you develop any side effects, especially severe diarrhea, since that could be a Clostridioides difficile (C. difficile or C. diff) infection, which needs to be treated immediately. 
  • Do your best to stay healthy and keep others healthy by cleaning hands by washing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or using 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, such as the flu vaccine. 
  • Antibiotics aren’t always the answer. Everyone can help improve antibiotic prescribing and use. Improving the way health care professionals prescribe antibiotics, and the way we take antibiotics, helps keep us healthy now, helps fight antibiotic resistance and ensures that these life-saving antibiotics will be available for future generations. 
  • Keep in mind that when antibiotics are not necessary, they will not help, and their side effects could still cause harm. Ask your health care provider about other options. Taking antibiotics only when needed can protect you and your family from antibiotic resistance.