ECU Student Health Services (SHS) is supporting Get Smart About Antibiotics Week, November 14-20, by sharing education and social media messages about when antibiotics are indicated, how to take them correctly, and why overuse contributes negatively to our health. SHS and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) want you to know why antibiotics are not always the answer and why SHS providers are so careful about only prescribing antibiotics when indicated, not just because a patient requests them.
The CDC has news this cold and flu season: antibiotics do not touch viruses—never have, never will! And it is not really news—it is a long-documented medical fact. Antibiotics can only treat illnesses caused by bacteria. Colds, the flu, most sore throats, bronchitis, and many sinus and ear infections are caused by viruses, not bacteria. If you have a viral infection, antibiotics will not help you feel better or get well sooner. In fact, they can even be harmful.
Taking antibiotics when they are not needed is fueling an increase in drug-resistant bacteria, which cause infections that are more difficult, and sometimes even impossible, to cure. Almost all types of bacteria have become less responsive to antibiotic treatment. Heard of MRSA? These “superbugs” can quickly spread to family members, schoolmates and coworkers, and threaten our communities with illnesses that were once easily treatable. Combatting antibiotic resistance is a priority for CDC with estimates of more than 2 million resistant infections occurring annually in the United States alone.
When antibiotics are used for viral infections, you are not getting the best care. A course of antibiotics will not fight the virus, help you feel better, or lead to a quicker recovery. It may even be harmful. If you are diagnosed with a viral illness, SHS providers will give you advice on what to do to feel more comfortable while the immune system does its work. Suggestions might include drinking plenty of fluids, getting a lot of rest, using over the counter medications, using a cool mist humidifier, or gargling with salt water. Please help SHS continue its commitment to safe and smart antibiotic use by educating yourself about antibiotics.
If an antibiotic is prescribed for you, take it as directed and complete the entire course of medication, regardless of when you start feeling better. Partial doses of antibiotics should not be saved “for next time”—this increases resistance and allows the bacteria to possibly come back stronger. You should also know to never take medication prescribed for others—even if you have similar symptoms as your roommate or think you have the same illness as a friend, it is NEVER okay to share prescriptions or take a dose of antibiotics from another person.
As always, if you have ANY questions about their diagnosis, treatment plan, or how to help your symptoms, call us at 252-328-6841 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about the right way to use antibiotics, visit www.cdc.gov/getsmart.
Article adapted from CDC’s educational materials for Get Smart About Antibiotics week.