Our immune system normally fights disease causing bacteria. But sometimes, it is unable to work fast enough against the attack by certain bacteria. In such circumstances, it needs help by destroying the sickness causing bacteria directly, and antibiotics are used in such cases. There are different antibiotics which work differently against the bacterial activities. The antibiotics need to be chosen carefully based on the specific situation.
A more severe consequence of indiscriminate use of antibiotics is the development of antibiotic resistance. It is the ability of a bacteria to withstand the effects of an antibiotic. Resistant bacteria are more difficult to treat, requiring alternative medications or higher doses of antibiotics. There are many causes to the antibiotic resistance. The major ones are:
- Heavy reliance on common broad-spectrum antibiotics to treat all forms of illness.
- Over-prescription of antibiotic drugs
- Prescribed dosage of antibiotic is insufficient.
- Patient does not consume the antibiotics as prescribed. (Stopping the intake when feeling better, and not completing the prescribed course).
- Consumption of meat and poultry where the animals are fed antibiotics.
- Self-prescribed intake of antibiotics without right evaluation.
Some Misconceptions about antibiotics :
- Many tend to believe that antibiotics are the solution against all sicknesses. In reality, antibiotics are not effective against viral infections. Usage of antibiotics in viral infections (unless also accompanied by a bacterial infection) may cause more harm than good.
- Another common misconception among the patients is that all forms of bacteria are harmful. But this is not true. There are many beneficial bacteria which help us in digestion, in absorption of good fats for our cells to grow and in maintaining good health. However, antibiotics act against these good bacteria as well, thus sometimes causing undesirable effects in our bodies.
How you can guard against antibiotic resistance :
- Use antibiotics only when prescribed by a doctor after the right evaluation.
- During a doctor’s visit kindly inform the doctor, if you have had a recent infection for which you had antibiotic treatment.
- Take the dosage as prescribed for the complete number of days and times.
- Take measures to prevent infections, such as, washing your hands, preparing food hygienically.
- Choose foods that have been produced without the use of antibiotics for growth promotion or disease prevention in healthy animals.
- Never share or use leftover antibiotics.
- Kindly do not demand antibiotics from health professionals if their opinion is that you don’t need them.
- Keep your vaccinations up to date.
Antibiotics are a boon to mankind but their indiscriminate usage is rising global concern. We as individuals can play a role in fighting against the antibiotic resistance by following the above measures and focusing more on preventive care and lifestyle measures such as healthy diet and regular exercise and by visiting your doctor periodically to ensure that your health is maintained. The key is to remember that ‘Prevention is always better that cure.’
Specialist Family Medicine
Aster Clinic, Tecom