How to Resist Bacterial Infections and Take Antibiotics Properly
Published on 20 September 2013
Antibiotic-resistant bacteria infect more than two million people each year according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Those infections go on to kill 23,000 patients. The CDC recently announced a three-level threat system based on the number of sicknesses, hospitalizations, and deaths.
Ryan Moenster, Pharm.D., BCPS-ID, associate professor of pharmacy practice at St. Louis College of Pharmacy, is one of only a few infectious disease pharmacists in the country. In addition to his teaching duties, he practices at a local hospital where he’s on the front lines of fighting these potentially deadly bacteria.
Question: What are some of the things that you’re doing to fight antibiotic resistance?
Answer: We try to restrict the broadest spectrum antibiotics, the antibiotics which are effective against the widest range of bacteria, to only the patients who meet specific criteria. These antibiotics are the last lines of defense. We try and keep those medications only for the patients who truly need them. As a pharmacist, one of my key principles in using antibiotics properly is to make sure the patient receives the correct amount of a medication that only treats the bacteria or germs involved in the infection.
Q: What can patients do?
A: When patients are prescribed antibiotics to take at home, they should be sure to follow the instructions and take all of the medicine. The antibiotics need a chance to work, and by not taking all of the medication as directed the bacteria will then have a chance to develop resistance. If the doctor diagnoses you or a family member with a viral infection, don’t demand medication like amoxicillin because antibiotics do nothing for viral infection. All you’re doing is unnecessarily exposing yourself to those types of medications.
Q: So how can a patient start to feel better?
A: For many infections, you’ll want to treat the symptoms, and the underlying infection will clear up in a couple of days. If you have a fever or body aches, you can take ibuprofen or acetaminophen. Taking some cough medicine or a decongestant will help a cough or stuffy nose. Even if you have a bacterial infection, it’s going to be 24 to 48 hours before antibiotics begin to work, but those over-the-counter (OTC) medications will make you feel better faster. If you have any questions about which OTC product will work the best for you, be sure to ask a pharmacist.
Q: What don’t patients know about antibiotics?
A: All medications, even antibiotics and OTC products, have side effects which need to be monitored. For example, an antibiotic used to treat urinary tract infections can lead to kidney failure. One of the worst side effects of this antibiotic is sun sensitivity so if a pharmacist or physician does not carefully consult patients they could develop a rash. We also deal a lot with allergies. Two of the most common allergies we see in any setting are allergies to antibiotics.
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