A Little More Each Day

One working mama learning to run & to maintain my 100+ pound weight loss!

Get Smart About Antibiotics

on November 17, 2014

This week is the CDC’s Get Smart About Antibiotics Week, with a goal of raising awareness about antibiotic overuse and antibiotic resistance. As a mom of a child who spent months on antibiotics for ear infections (thank you tubes for stopping that cycle!), this is definitely something I’m interested in from a health perspective, so I started writing this blog post earlier this month when I first became aware of the project. I now have an even more personal stake in it as I’m on antibiotics myself for the first time in years. Thinking about these issues has a whole new impact knowing that antibiotics are at work in my body as we speak!

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So what’s the big deal? Why should we care about antibiotics?

– At least 2 million people in the US become infected every year with bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics and at least 23,000 people die as a result of these infections. While it’s tempting to think that this is just a problem for people in hospitals or nursing homes, it’s an issue for those of us who are relatively healthy as well. The bacteria that cause most sinus and ear and bladder infections are becoming more resistant too, meaning we need bigger antibiotics for these things and things are getting more difficult to treat.

– The biggest factor leading to the development of antibiotic resistance is inappropriate use of antibiotics. It may seem harmless to take antibiotics for a cold, but the truth is that the antibiotics don’t really help the cold – it’s a virus that will go away on its own with time. What the antibiotics will do is kill off some of the bacteria that normally live in your nose and leave you with only those bacteria that were resistant to the antibiotic. That means that your normal flora (i.e. the bacteria that always live with us) get more and more resistant over time. Up to 50% of the antibiotics prescribed in the United States are prescribed incorrectly according to the CDC, with either a “bigger” antibiotic than is needed or antibiotic prescribed when none is needed at all.

From CDC

From CDC

– Not only can antibiotics put you at risk for resistance in the long run, in the short term they can cause problems too. They don’t just kill the bacteria your doctor is trying to kill – they also kill a lot of the bacteria in our intestines that help us digest our food and absorb nutrients. That means diarrhea and potentially worse infections like C. difficile that occur when bad bacteria overgrow in your intestines because antibiotics killed your protective good bacteria. You can also get yeast infections when the normally protective bacteria in your mouth or skin or vagina are wiped out, not to mention the risk of allergic reactions and other side effects. All things we want to avoid if possible, right?

What can we do to avoid this?

Be careful about antibiotic use in the first place. If you’re sick, talk to your doctor about whether or not your illness is viral or bacterial. If it’s a virus, give it time to run its course. Green snot does not mean you have a bacterial infection; a sore throat doesn’t always mean you have strep throat; a high fever doesn’t always mean you need antibiotics. You get a vote in your health care, so talk to your doctor about saving antibiotics for the times you really need them.

– If you have to take an antibiotic (like I am now – Grrr), be sure you take it as it is prescribed. Finish the whole course. Exposing yourself to just a few days of antibiotics can increase the risk of developing resistance.

– While you’re taking an antibiotic, try to replace some of your “good” bacteria as much as you can with yogurt that has active cultures and/or some kind of probiotic supplement. I’m eating yogurt a couple of times a day, which I think is really helping me tolerate these antibiotics better than I have in the past.

– Another thing we’re doing in our family now to help this problem on a bigger scale is buying antibiotic free meat. There is more and more data coming out suggesting that the antibiotics given to our poultry and other protein sources is contributing to antibiotic resistance in humans. Here’s a great blog post over at SeattleMamaDoc that goes into more detail. We’re starting with antibiotic free chicken, but will work on going antibiotic-free with as much of our protein as possible. It’s a little more expensive, so I’ll need to let my budget minded husband adjust to the cost a bit. 🙂

At least this week I get a gas discount for buying the antibiotic-free chicken.

At least this week I get a gas discount for buying the antibiotic-free chicken.

There’s going to be a live Twitter Chat tomorrow, 11/18, at 3 pm EST where you can get more information and ask specific questions. Check out @CDC_eHealth and #SaveAbx for more information. Coming into the winter season, with all of the colds we’re all going to get, it’s a good time to read up and make sure we can advocate for ourselves and responsible antibiotic use.

Resources for More Information

CDC Get Smart About Antibiotics

CDC Antibiotic Use in Animals

 

 

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One response to “Get Smart About Antibiotics

  1. […] At the beginning of the year, lots of us (me included) make a goal to focus more on quality food. Unfortunately, sometimes that gets really expensive. Laura’s post with tips on saving money on the things you buy organic is really handy and has lots of concrete tips. I’m considering adding the meat option to our local CSA order in the spring as we try to use more organic and antibiotic free meat options. […]

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