December 06, 2021 | Tags: Healthy Outlooks Wellness

Antibiotics have been used as an effective way of fighting bacterial infections for decades. Over time, however, bacteria become more resilient and develop new ways to defend themselves against antibiotics. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are more than 2.8 million of these antibiotic-resistant infections in the United States each year, resulting in more than 35,000 deaths.

How does antibiotic resistance happen?

You may have heard the common misconception that people become resistant to antibiotics. It’s actually germs—including bacteria and fungi—that can become resistant. Though antibiotics are meant to kill germs that cause infections, some germs find ways to resist the effects. Once germs develop antibiotic resistance, they no longer react to the standard treatments. These antibiotic-resistant germs may multiply or pass on their ability to survive to other germs, allowing antibiotic resistance to spread between people.

Why is antibiotic resistance a problem?

An antibiotic-resistant infection can be difficult or impossible to effectively treat. If antibiotics stop working, we can lose the ability to control public health threats. Additionally, many people undergoing treatments for diseases, such as cancer, kidney disease and diabetes, rely on antibiotics, as they are at higher risk for developing infections.

How to Help Prevent Antibiotic Resistance

  • Take antibiotics only when your healthcare provider prescribes them to you. Antibiotics work to treat infections caused only by bacteria, not infections caused by viruses like the common cold or the flu. Don’t take antibiotics prescribed for another person.
  • If you are prescribed an antibiotic for an infection, finish the entire course of antibiotics even once you start to feel better. Be sure to tell your doctor if you have any side effects or allergic reactions while taking an antibiotic.
  • Do your best to prevent getting sick and spreading infections to others. Get recommended vaccinations, practice regular hand washing and general health hygiene, and stay home when you’re not feeling well.

For more information about antibiotic resistance, visit CDC.gov/antibiotic-use.

Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Cleveland Clinic, Mayo Clinic