Antibiotics: Use them wisely

iStockphoto: studioe6

By Ian Wiseman

Since penicillin was introduced in the 1940s, antibiotics have saved millions of lives. But their frequent use, often for conditions or infections that aren’t caused by bacteria has caused problems. This has given rise to bacteria that are resistant to many commonly used antibiotics with a resultant loss in their effectiveness.

Superbugs emerge when an antibiotic fails to kill all of the bacteria it targets with the surviving bacteria becoming resistant to that particular drug and frequently other antibiotics as well.

Here are two guide lines to help ensure that antibiotics are used wisely:

  1. Don’t pressure your doctor. Some doctors give patients antibiotics when they might not be helpful. For example, a patient with a cold may pressure a doctor into prescribing an antibiotic because the patient hopes to get a quick fix to his/her illness. Antibiotics won’t cure a cold because colds are caused by viruses, not bacteria. The treatment for a cold is generally rest, plenty of fluids and medicines for fever and headache.
  2. Complete the course. Antibiotics can be misused when patients do not take them according to their doctor’s instructions. Remember to complete the course. Often the patient feels better half way through the course and stops taking them. The course needs to be completed to prevent resistant organisms developing.
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