The human body and mind are pretty incredible. Think about it. Our body is built to seek out and fight germs to keep us healthy. We also have the intelligence to develop medications, like antibiotics, to help the body do its job. There’s no question that antibiotics are life-saving drugs.
However, here are some numbers to consider:
- Each year in the U.S., at least 2 million people are infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and at least 23,000 people die as a result.
- It is estimated that there were 700,000 deaths worldwide in 2016 due to antibiotic resistance
- Antibiotic resistance could cost nearly $100 trillion from now until 2050
- The rate of antibiotic resistance has surpassed our development of new antibiotics
So what does this all mean?
When antibiotics are over-used or misused, the germs we are trying to kill figure out how to survive. Most people are familiar with the term “superbugs.” The problem is not that your body has grown resistant to the medication. The problem is that the germ has become resistant to the antibiotic. Antibiotic resistance is one of the most pressing public health issues, worldwide. Our go-to treatments for infection are just not working.
Not to be dramatic, but if we keep going at this rate, it could mean the end of modern medicine as we know it. Without antibiotics to treat infections, every surgical procedure from removing an ingrown toenail to a C-section becomes pretty risky.
Enough of my soapbox speech. What can be done?
Fix the over-use
According to the CDC, 1/3 – 1/2 of all antibiotic prescriptions are unnecessary. Strep throat needs an antibiotic. Sore throat does not. Bacterial pneumonia needs an antibiotic. Bronchitis does not. Talk with your provider to decide if an antibiotic is absolutely necessary for your child’s infection. When you take an antibiotic for a virus, the antibiotic attacks the good bacteria in your body. These good guys decrease, which can cause all kinds of problems like diarrhea and yeast infections. Also, the good bacteria are then able to teach bad bacteria how to resist that antibiotic.
Fix the misuse
If you have an infection that requires antibiotics, talk with your provider and choose the best, most narrow spectrum antibiotic for the job. Omnicef is not necessary for all ear infections. Using broad-spectrum antibiotics when they aren’t necessary teaches germs how to resist the narrower spectrum ones. Also, make sure you finish your entire prescribed antibiotic. When you only use your prescription part of the way, all of the easy to kill bugs die. But all of the stronger, more resistant ones stick around to cause a worse infection later on. And lastly, although this should go without saying, don’t self medicate with someone else’s or an old prescription. It is not helpful, and in fact, is quite harmful.
Obviously, the best treatment is prevention. Wash your hands, cover your cough/sneeze, throw dirty tissues in the trash, and stay home when you’re sick. You can also try boosting your immune system so it fights germs more effectively. My family and I take elderberry syrup (1 teaspoon daily for kids) and Echinacea. We also try to eat as many colorful fruits and veggies as we can every day (green smoothies are a huge hit with my kids). We do still get sick; a necessary evil of working with sick kids. But, we don’t need antibiotics.
I understand that being sick is uncomfortable. Especially when it’s your child. You just want to fix it. Antibiotics will not make you feel better, though. As a matter of fact, antibiotics can make you feel worse, initially, even when you’re taking them for the right reason. Instead, treat the symptoms. The pediatric providers at KidMed have all kinds of tips and tricks for helping your sick child feel better. And, if you want even more resources, the CDC has some great symptom management recommendations for common illnesses.