Mother knows best, but so does your doctor

Posted by Diego Zea Pineros, M.D.
July 31, 2015


There is no doubt that antibiotics have changed modern medicine for the better. But where do we draw the line between safe and unsafe use of antibiotics? As many benefits as there are to antibiotics, there also are concerns regarding extended use.

If antibiotics are used to cure us of a nagging cold, how could they possibly hinder our health?

Due to their easy access and efficiency, people have begun to overuse antibiotics causing widespread bacterial resistance problems. Bacterial resistance means bacteria have grown accustomed to the antibiotics and are able to resist the effects of the antibiotics, making them ineffective. A resistance can lead to the bacteria staying put and causing further problems.

Antibiotics also can cause serious allergic reactions and affect organs, such as the kidney and liver, and bone marrow and other parts of the body.

A serious condition that is associated with overuse of antibiotics is a certain type of colitis, an inflammation of the colon that is caused by bacteria called clostridium difficile. Symptoms that come with colitis usually are diarrhea, fever, decreased appetite, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. In some cases, clostridium difficile infection may require surgery or can be fatal.

Due to overuse of antibiotics, clostridium difficile bacteria are becoming resistant to antibiotics, making this condition difficult to treat.

Do not be alarmed. Antibiotics are not bad for you.

What can I do to use antibiotics in a safe way?

There are a number of tips that you can remember when antibiotics are a necessity.

First, you should never take antibiotics that are not prescribed by your doctor. Taking antibiotics that were not prescribed by your health care provider can be dangerous and potentially harmful.

Second, don’t get frustrated with your doctor if he or she doesn’t prescribe you antibiotics. Most infections are viral and do not require antibiotics. Oftentimes, letting the virus run its course and taking in proper vitamins is the best way to get rid of the virus. There also are instances where bacterial infections do not require antibiotics.

To simply state, antibiotics are not always the answer.

What are physicians doing to prevent clostridium difficile infections?

Diego Zea Pineros, M.D.

At Mayo Clinic Health System, an antibiotic stewardship program is promoting and creating a logical use of antibiotics. This program will raise awareness and educate the public on the dangers of overusing antibiotics and the benefits of practicing safe antibiotic use.

Mayo Clinic Health System also promotes the importance of hand washing and isolation precautions for patients with this infection in the hospital. Also used is a UV light in the room of a patient with clostridium difficile infection after discharge in order to keep facilities clean and serviceable for the next patient.

In the end, antibiotic use is a serious issue. When used incorrectly, bacteria become resistant to the antibiotic causing a person to require longer and even more intense courses of treatment. Trust your doctor, and know he or she will take the necessary steps in order to put you back on the quickest path to ideal health.

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