We live in an age where everything is immediately at your fingertips and people expect real-time results. Because of this, many people seek an immediate cure to their ailment at the first sign of a sniffle or sneeze. Antibiotics, an amazing discovery that lead to much advancement in medicine, are not quite the cure-all many believe. According to the CDC, “antibiotics do not fight infections caused by viruses like colds, most sore throats, bronchitis, and some ear infections.”

It is understandable to want either yourself or a loved one to feel better when they are ill, but that does not necessarily mean an antibiotic is the appropriate treatment for all illnesses. For many ailments, the CDC recommends symptom relief as the best treatment option. If antibiotics are used too often for things they can’t treat – like colds and other viral infections – they may stop working against bacteria when you or your child really needs them. Currently, many health organizations consider antibiotic resistance one of the world’s most critical public health threats.

There are many things you can do to combat antibiotic resistance:

  • Be proactive: When you or your child goes to a physician, have an open dialogue and express your concerns about whether the illness is a bacterial or a viral infection. If your physician does not prescribe an antibiotic, trust his or her judgment. Do not demand antibiotics when they are not necessary.
  • Use antibiotics properly: If your physician prescribes an antibiotic for a bacterial infection, be sure to take the entire prescription as directed. Do not skip doses and do not save any pills for the next time you or your child gets sick.
  • Only use antibiotics prescribed to you: Do not take antibiotics prescribed for someone else. Different antibiotics target different types of bacteria and the prescription may not be the right one for your illness. Taking the wrong medication delays treatment and allows bacteria to increase. Additionally, it is potentially dangerous to take a medication not prescribed to you by a physician. You may be unaware that the antibiotic you borrowed is in a class of antibiotics you are allergic to. Or, the antibiotic may interact with medicines you are already taking or should not be taken by someone with a certain pre-existing condition. For these reasons, never take medication not prescribed to you by a physician.

Remember, just because your physician did not prescribe an antibiotic does not mean you are not sick or that the physician did not treat you. Talk with your physician about the best treatment for the illness, which may include over-the-counter medication and other home remedies. For example, if your child has an upper respiratory viral infection, your physician may recommend increasing fluid intake; getting plenty of rest; using a cool-mist vaporizer or saline nasal spray; using ice chips; sore throat spray; and/or lozenges to soothe your child’s throat. Your pharmacist is also a valuable resource about at-home treatment options that may help reduce symptoms.

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