Antibiotics are strong medicines that can stop some infections and save lives. However, antibiotics can cause more harm than good when they aren’t used correctly. Knowing when you should and shouldn’t use antibiotics can better protect you and your family.
When prescribed antibiotics, take the full course of antibiotics and not just until you feel better. Using antibiotics for common colds or influenza will only increase one’s exposure to more resistant forms of bacteria.
Antibiotics and similar drugs, together called antimicrobial agents, have been used for years to treat patients who have infectious diseases. Since the 1940s, these drugs have greatly reduced illness and death from infectious diseases. Antibiotic use has been beneficial and, when prescribed and taken correctly, their value in patient care is enormous.
However, these drugs have been used so widely and for so long that the infectious organisms the antibiotics are designed to kill have adapted to them, making the drugs less effective. These organisms are called “resistant” because they resist antibiotics. Sometimes, resistant organisms can be treated with more powerful medicines. Many are untreatable. People infected with antimicrobial-resistant organisms are more likely to have longer, more expensive hospital stays, and may be more likely to die as a result of the infection.