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Antibiotic Resistance

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What you should know

Antibiotic medicines treat bacterial infections. They kill bacteria and keep it from growing. If you use antibiotics the wrong way, they can make it difficult for your body to fight disease. Wrong use could lead to:

  • Allergic reaction.
  • Severe infection.
  • Deadly diarrhea.

Bacteria becoming resistant to antibiotics is mostly caused by using too many. One in 3 antibiotic prescriptions is unnecessary.

What’s the harm if I take antibiotics and don’t need them?

If you use antibiotics when you don’t need them, you may experience side effects that range from mild to severe. For children, reactions from antibiotics are the most common cause of medication-related emergency department visits. Why increase this risk by using antibiotics unnecessarily? 

You also create antibiotic resistance, which happens when bacteria no longer respond to the drugs designed to kill them. Each year in the United States, at least 2 million people get infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria. At least 23,000 people die as a result.

What you can do

Help fight antibiotic resistance and stop the spread of disease.

  • If your healthcare provider says you don’t need antibiotics, don’t ask for them. Instead, ask your doctor how to ease your symptoms.
  • Take antibiotics exactly as your provider tells you. Don’t stop early or skip doses.
  • Don’t share antibiotics with others.
  • Don’t save antibiotics for later. Safely discard leftover medicines.
  • Stay healthy and keep others healthy.
  • Wash your hands.
  • Cover your coughs.
  • Stay home when you’re sick.
  • Get vaccinated.

Common illnesses

Some illnesses like tuberculosis, can be life-threatening without proper treatment. But not all illnesses require antibiotics. In fact, when you take antibiotics for illnesses—like for a cold or the flu—antibiotics can do more harm than good.

Check out this table to up your antibiotic awareness:

 Illness Usually virus Usually Bacteria need Antibiotic
Cold or runny nose Yes No No
Bronchitis or chest cold Yes No No
Whooping cough (pertussis) No Yes Yes
Flu Yes No No
Strep throat No Yes Yes
Sore throat Yes No No
Ear infection (fluid in the middle ear) Yes No No
Urinary tract infection No Yes Yes

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