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Someone getting two pills out of a prescription bottle

It’s the same story each year. Every fall and winter, medical providers see an influx of patients struggling with influenza and respiratory illness.

While you may be tempted to ask your physician for antibiotics, they are rarely needed except to treat certain infections caused by bacteria, such as pneumonia, strep throat, some middle ear and sinus infections, and sepsis. Antibiotics can be considered, in rare cases, for people at high risk for developing infections.

Illnesses like COVID-19, flu and the common cold may be unpleasant, but there are usually safer, more effective ways to feel better while your body fights off the virus.

Why you should approach antibiotics cautiously

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), at least 28% of antibiotics are prescribed unnecessarily in doctor’s offices and hospital emergency rooms each year.

Taking antibiotics when they’re not needed not only fails to treat your illness, but its side effects could also cause harm. Minor symptoms of unnecessary antibiotic use include:

  • Rash

  • Dizziness

  • Nausea

  • Diarrhea

  • Yeast infections

More serious side effects are Clostridioides difficile (C. diff) or a variety of life-threatening allergic reactions, such as wheezing, hives, shortness of breath and anaphylaxis. Taking antibiotics without reason can also lead to the development of antibiotic resistance.

What is antibiotic resistance?

Antibiotic resistance occurs when there is repeated exposure to antibiotics which allows bacteria to mutate and adaptate to become resistant (which, at times, can occur at random!). This allows germs to continue to grow. The CDC reports more than 2.8 million antibiotic-resistant infections occur in the U.S. each year, and more than 35,000 people die as a result.

It’s important for everyone to pitch in to help stop the spread of antibiotic resistance and ensure future generations also benefit from these life-saving medications.

How can you help?

If you’re feeling bad, but antibiotics aren’t needed, talk to your health care provider to learn how you can alleviate your symptoms. Over-the-counter medication, rest and plenty of fluids will often do the trick.

Don’t misuse antibiotics. That means taking them exactly as prescribed. Don’t forget to report any serious side effects you’re having, as they may require immediate medical treatment.

Stay healthy by washing your hands, covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze, staying home when sick and getting vaccinated. Together, we can all do our part!

Looking for a primary care physician? Check out our easy-to-use tool to find a doctor in your community or call 256-265-3000 for more information.