November 13-19 is U.S. Antibiotic Awareness Week. This annual event serves to raise awareness about safe antibiotic prescribing and use. It is important for us to know when we need antibiotics, when we do not, how best to take antibiotics, and what side effects may be caused by antibiotics.
Inappropriate use of antibiotics is a leading cause of antibiotic resistance around the world. Antibiotics are some of the most prescribed drugs, but up to half of prescriptions are not necessary or effective. Every year in the United States, at least 2 million people get infected with bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics. And at least 23,000 people die because of these infections. When bacteria become resistant, antibiotics cannot fight them and the bacteria multiply. Some resistant bacteria can be harder to treat and can spread to other people. By working together to appropriately use antibiotics only when they are necessary, we can decrease the number of infections caused by bacteria resistant to antibiotics.
I encourage you to do these things to stay antibiotics aware:
- Get the facts about antibiotics. Antibiotics do not work on viruses such as colds and flu, or runny noses, even if the mucus is thick, yellow or green. When antibiotics aren’t needed, they won’t help you and the side effects could still hurt you.
- Ask your healthcare provider about the best way to feel better while your body fights off a virus. Pain relievers, fever reducers, saline nasal spray or drops, warm compresses, liquids and rest may help.
- If you need antibiotics, take them exactly as prescribed. Talk with your healthcare provider if you have any questions about your antibiotics or if you develop any side effects. Be sure to talk with them if you have diarrhea, since that could be a Clostridium difficile ( C. difficile) infection, which should be treated.
- Stay healthy and keep others healthy by washing your hands, covering your coughs and staying home when you are sick. Be sure to get recommended vaccines for infections like the flu.
- C. difficile is the infection most often associated with healthcare exposure and recent antibiotic use. In Virginia’s Plan for Well-Being, we track progress towards the prevention of C. difficile infections. In 2016, Virginia acute care hospitals reported more than 2,300 C. difficile infections. To meet the national prevention goal, hospitals would need to prevent more than 600 C. difficile infections per year.
Learn more by visiting: www.cdc.gov/antibiotic-use.