In recent years the use of antibiotics has increased significantly. While physicians are aware of the proper circumstances under which an antibiotic should be prescribed, patients are not. Occasionally in their haste to create wellness, both patients and physicians have taken on a tendency to prescribe and take antibiotics too frequently and for ailments that antibiotics are not designed to cure.
Antibiotics are meant for use in the following circumstances;
- Bacterial infections only
- For a limited amount of time
- To be taken exactly as prescribed including the number of times per day and the number of days as prescribed by a physician
Antibiotics should never be used;
- From a leftover prescription to cure a new current illness
- Borrowed from a family member or friend
- Discontinued before the time prescribed by your physician
While there are many types of antibiotics available it is important to remember that each formulated antibiotic is for specific and varied strains of bacteria. Hence, an antibiotic given for a urinary tract infection is not necessarily the same antibiotic given for a strep throat infection. Therefore, it is imperative that when an antibiotic is chosen, it is the proper medication for the presenting infection.
In addition, there are several types of infections that can present as either viral or bacterial. Without consulting a physician, it is impossible for a layperson to make this important distinction. The following conditions can be either bacterial infections of viral infections;
- Cold and Flu
- A sore Throat
- Sinus Infections
- Ear Infections
The dangers of using antibiotics inappropriately are many. However, the most concerning the effect of overuse of antibiotics is Antibiotic Resistance. When antibiotics are overused or misused the bacteria can create a resistance to the antibiotic and the illness can mutate into a much stronger form. The stronger bacteria will then be more difficult to treat. Your physician may have to use a different form of antibiotic or one of greater strength to combat your illness.
The scope of antibiotic overuse is growing, globally. In general, the use of antibiotics has been on the rise in many first world countries. The increase is causing some of the following consequences to the healthcare industry;
- Bacterial infections are becoming harder to successfully treat
- The strength of the bacteria causing illnesses is becoming stronger
- The strains of bacteria are changing
- Hospital stays are increasing
- Medical costs related to antibiotic resistance are increasing
- Mortality rates due to antibiotic failure are rising
In a time of illness, it is important to remember to give your physician an accurate and complete history of your usual health and your current symptoms. Your history should include;
- Onset of symptoms
- All symptoms you are experiencing
- History of fever with the current illness
- Any allergies to medications and/or foods
- A list of any medications you are currently using on a daily basis or specific to the illness you are presenting with
Providing this type of accurate information will help your physician determine if your illness is bacterial or viral.
Both patients and physicians can take precautions to reduce the spreading of bacterial infections and reduce the immediate need for antibiotic prescriptions. Some proactive patient steps include;
- Maintain a healthy diet including fruits, vegetables and plenty of water
- Keep your hands clean with soap and water
- Prepare food carefully preventing cross-contamination
Proactive professional steps can also be taken;
- Explain to patients the reason they do or do not need an antibiotic
- Emphasis the prescription must be taken exactly as directed
- Encourage patients to rest at home to prevent the spread of the illness
Lastly, the agriculture sector can also do its part to reduce the increase in antibiotic resistance. It is imperative that our food system remains antibiotic free. This means that animals raised for the food industry should only be treated with antibiotics by a physician of veterinary medicine. The use of antibiotics in food sources must be confined to treatment for animals that are sick and in need of medical care.
It is imperative that physicians, patients, farmers, and disease researchers all do their part to begin to control and reduce the widespread use of antibiotic treatment in humans and animals. The proper use of these drugs will begin to reduce the need for stronger more expensive treatments and allow for patients to recover from both bacterial and viral infections utilizing more appropriate forms of care.
In the instance that you find yourself or your health practice dealing with any of these issues and need assistance please the offices of Owen Hodge Lawyers. At Owen Hodge, we are always happy to assist clients in understanding the full ramifications of any and all of your legal needs. Please feel free to call us at your earliest convenience to schedule a consultation at 1800 770 780.