The discovery of antibiotics by Alexander Fleming in 1928 at St. Mary’s Hospital, London revolutionized the field of medicine earning it the tag the “wonder drug”. Ever since then, antibiotics have been used to treat bacterial infections and have significantly reduced unnecessary deaths. However, the picture started to change sometime in the 1940s when human behaviour towards the use of antibiotics resulted in what was known as antibiotic resistance. To curb this, antibiotics need to be safely used and adequate awareness can help preserve them. Thus, this article aims to improve knowledge and consequently promote the responsible use of antibiotics.
Antibiotic resistance happens when bacteria develop the ability to outsmart the drugs that once killed them. In this case, the bacteria can grow indiscriminately and may lead to the death of the infected person. In the United States, antibiotic-resistant infections are at a record high of 2.8 million every year. This is alarming and if nothing is quickly done about it, our once-wonder drug may become a disaster. Luckily, most of the reasons for antibiotic resistance are related to human use of the drug. Below is relevant information to help us use antibiotics more responsibly.
BASICS ABOUT ANTIBIOTICS
Antibiotics are powerful medicines that fight infections caused by bacteria. They can work dramatically to kill bacteria within a few days. Probably, the most prevalent myth about antibiotics is that they can cure common cold. However, common cold is caused by viruses that antibiotics have no effect on. Infections of the nose, throat, ear, and chest are often caused by viruses and would not be cured by antibiotics. Therefore, taking a course of antibiotics for flu-like illnesses will do nothing but perhaps kill off the body’s own population of beneficial bacteria.
WHEN SHOULD ANTIBIOTICS BE USED?
Ideally, Antibiotics should be used only if there are signs of a bacterial infection and not viral ones. Common cold caused by viruses will naturally run its cause within a week.
It is important to note that you do not always need an antibiotic and it is best to allow your doctor to make the decision that you need one. Thus, it is best to avoid the urge to self-medicate when you feel unwell.
THE RESPONSIBLE USE OF ANTIBIOTICS
Even when the doctor prescribes an antibiotic, there is a proper way to take it. Antibiotics can be prescribed to be taken by mouth, applied on the skin, or administered by injection. Whatever the case you pharmacist or healthcare professional will usually tell you how to take your antibiotics. It is important to listen carefully and adhere to them to get the best out of the medicine.
Instructions are usually given on how many tablets/capsules, how often, and how you should take them. It is important to remember to complete the entire course prescribed at the right dose, time, and for the right duration of time. Even if you feel better, you still need to complete the course. It is often usual for you to feel better after a few days of taking these wonder drugs, but you will still need to complete it. If you forget to take your antibiotics, take the next dose as soon as you remember and readjust the schedule appropriately.
Irresponsible use of antibiotics may cause the bacteria to return and become more difficult to control. The ones that survive when you did not complete the course have some exposure to the antibiotic and can build up resistance to it.
Preserving our wonder drug is largely in our hands. Making efforts to use them responsibly is the first step towards curbing the menace of antibiotic resistance. As bacteria continue trying to outsmart us, we must fight back by resisting the urge to misuse antibiotics.