If you had the misfortune of getting a pneumonia caused by a resistant bacterium, this could be a much different story. An easily treatable illness such as pneumonia becomes a big problem as the normally prescribed antibiotics have little effect. The illness progresses and you could end up in the hospital for quite some time. When looking at a scenario such as this one, it is easy to see how resistance could become a significant problem.
What can you do? The public should become more aware of which illnesses truly need an antibiotic. With this knowledge, everyone can begin to do their part to use antibiotics more appropriately. Many patients feel inadequately treated if they leave the doctor still having cold and flu symptoms without receiving an antibiotic. Remember that not every illness needs an antibiotic and that an antibiotic will not treat illnesses that are not caused by a bacterial infection. Only your doctor can tell if you have a bacterial infection.
A great resource is the CDC’s campaign website: http://www.cdc.gov/getsmart. Here you can find some basic information about antibiotic use, what illnesses are caused by bacteria, and what you can do when you do not need an antibiotic.
Bacterial infection signs
• Skin: Local redness and tenderness
• Respiratory: colored sputum
• Respiratory: sinus symptoms lasting more than 14 days such as runny nose and cough
• While these symptoms do not always mean you have a bacterial infection, they can be signs you should see your doctor.
Illnesses usually caused by viruses
• Most bronchitis
These illnesses are usually caused by viruses, meaning that antibiotics will NOT cure them and also will NOT make you feel better. Only your doctor can determine if you need an antibiotic.
Nicholas Helms is a Pharm-D candidate with Auburn University’s Harrison School of Pharmacy, interning at The Pharmacy in Mt. Olive. The Pharmacy can be reached at 631-1201.