You’ve probably heard that superbug infections are on the rise due to antibiotic resistance. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says there were over 2.8 million antibiotic-resistant infections, resulting in over 35,000 deaths, in 2019. As a perspective, there were at least 2 million of antibiotic resistant infections and at least 23,000 deaths in 2013. Preventive measures and the appropriate use of antibiotics are two tools we can use in the fight against antibiotic resistant infections. The Columbus Community Hospital works hard to protect you, but there are also things you can do to help protect your health and the health of your family.
Bacteria and viruses are the two main types of germs. Most bacteria don’t harm you, some even help digest food. But other bacteria cause illnesses such as strep throat, urinary tract infections, wound and skin infections, many types of pneumonia, and some ear infections.
Antibiotics are used to treat bacterial infections. Today there are hundreds of antibiotics, most of them suitable for treating a specific type of bacterial infection.
However, viruses cannot be treated with antibiotics. Smaller than bacteria, these microbes make you sick when they invade and reproduce in healthy cells. Viruses cause many illnesses, including colds, coughs, most ear infections, and the flu (the flu and stomach flu). It’s hard to tell if a disease is caused by bacteria or a virus, so see your doctor.
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Tips for taking antibiotics
- Do not ask for an antibiotic if your doctor tells you that you do not need it. If you have a viral infection, avoid antibiotics. They won’t help.
- Take your medicine as prescribed. Ask your doctor or pharmacist what to do if you miss a dose.
- Stop taking your medicine even if you feel better (take all doses to kill all bacteria).
- Do not take old medicine or someone else’s medicine.
- Always handle, prepare, store, cook and refrigerate food properly, and keep hands, utensils and food preparation areas clean to avoid foodborne illness.
- Do not allow raw meat, poultry, and fish – or their juices – to come in contact with other foods.
- Stay home from work and keep your child home from school when they are sick.
- To get vaccinated. Ask your doctor which vaccines you and your family should receive.
- Wash your hands thoroughly using soap and water for 10 to 30 seconds, or alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
Columbus Community Hospital uses comprehensive programs to keep you and your loved ones safe, including infectious disease surveillance and risk assessment, infection control, hand washing protocols, isolation procedures and environmental cleaning and disinfection.
Your immune system can fight off some viruses before they make you sick, but sometimes you just have to let them run their course. If you or someone in your family has a cold, you can get relief by:
- Drink lots of fluids.
- Use a cool mist sprayer or humidifier.
- Nasal saline spray to soothe dry nasal passages.
- Take fever medication, if needed.
- Drink lukewarm water with lemon and honey, eat ice cubes or use sore throat spray or lozenges (do not give lozenges to young children because of the risk of suffocation).
- Contact your doctor if symptoms worsen or last for a long time.
Josh Jaeger, PharmD, is the Director of Pharmacy at Columbus Community Hospital.