Antibiotics are among the most frequently prescribed medications in modern medicine. Antibiotics cure disease by killing or injuring bacteria. From penicillin, the first antibiotic discovered accidentally from a mold culture to present day, there are now over 100 different antibiotics available to doctors to cure minor discomforts as well as life-threatening infections.
Virtually all important bacterial infections in the US and throughout the world are becoming resistant to the drugs created to eradicate them. As a result, new strains of resistant bacteria such as mycobacterium tuberculosis, E. coli and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) have emerged, with the potential to infect healthy people of all ages.
Although antibiotics are useful in a wide variety of infections, it is important to realize that antibiotics only treat bacterial infections. Antibiotics are useless against viral infections (for example, the common cold) and fungal infections (such as ringworm).
Always remember that no drug comes without a side effect, and antibiotics are no exception.
⚲ Severe watery diarrhea and abdominal cramps
⚲ Soft stools or diarrhea
⚲ Mild stomach upset
⚲ Allergic reaction (shortness of breath, hives, swelling of your lips, face, or tongue, fainting)
⚲ Vaginal itching or discharge
⚲ White patches on your tongue
According to the National Institute of Health, one of the foremost concerns in modern medicine is antibiotic resistance. In a nutshell, if an antibiotic is used repeatedly or long enough, bacteria will grow resistant to the medicine and emerge into something that cannot be killed by that antibiotic. This is known as antibiotic resistance. Infections exist today that are caused by bacteria resistant to some antibiotics. The existence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria creates the danger of life-threatening infections that no longer respond to antibiotics.
There are several reasons for the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Bacteria spread and replicate quickly and are able to adapt to their environment via a genetic mutation that can arise to help them survive in the presence of an antibiotic drug. Although the drug will inhibit the growth and survival of susceptible bacteria, some resistant ones may survive, which will then quickly become the dominant bacteria.
We, humans, have no control over the natural adaptability of bacteria, but the widespread and sometimes inappropriate use of antibiotics has amplified antibiotic resistance. We've been using them too much, and often when there's no confirmation of a bacterial infection.
This includes the common practice of prescribing antibiotics for the common cold or flu. Even though antibiotics do not affect viruses, many people expect to get a prescription for antibiotics when they visit their doctor. Although the common cold is uncomfortable, antibiotics do not cure it, nor change its course. Each person can help reduce the development of resistant bacteria by not asking for antibiotics for a common cold or flu. Sadly, in a 1999 study published by Pediatrics Journal, physicians prescribed antibiotics for viral infections 62 percent of the time when asked by a patient, and only 7 percent of the time when they think a patient does not want it. A few other common scenarios where antibiotics are unnecessarily prescribed to children include some sinus infections, coughs and some ear infections.
According to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 70% of bacteria that caused hospital-acquired infections (where patients become ill after being exposed to the organism in the hospital) are now resistant to at least one of the antibiotics commonly used to treat them. Infections from drug-resistant organisms can cause longer hospital stays and often require treatment with drugs that may be less effective, more toxic and/or more expensive. There are additional studies that attribute use of antibiotics with heart problems. With such risks, how do you know the best route to go when doctors prescribe antibiotics?
According to a 2008 article in Clinical Infectious Diseases, more than 142,000 people are rushed to the emergency room each year from adverse reactions to antibiotics, and an estimated 70,000 of those cases may be a result of unnecessary antibiotic prescriptions.
Children are more likely to suffer side effects such as diarrhea and abdominal pain from antibiotics.
In addition, using antibiotics for ear infections may increase the likelihood of getting another ear infection, according to a recent British Medical Journal study.
When antibiotics do become necessary for bacterial infections, the treatment may not work for some children who have used the medication too often.
While antibiotics are needed to treat bacterial infections, drug-resistant bacteria are a growing problem worldwide.
Instead of asking for doctors to reach for the prescription pad to treat a virus, suggest giving your pediatrician as much information about your child's illness as possible.
✒ Ask your doctor what to expect for the duration of the illness.
✒ 'What can you do to make my child feel better for the illness?'
✒ 'What should the parent be looking out for that could signal a worsening condition?
There are many examples of how physicians and patients inappropriately use antibiotics. For instance, patients often ask for, and physicians often prescribe, antibiotics to treat non-bacterial illnesses for which they are completely ineffective, such as the common cold, most sore throats, most ear infections and the flu. Although antibiotics are widely prescribed to treat sinus infections, a study published in Journal of the American Medical Association in the December 5, 2007, issue found that they were not effective in treating them.
In the study, 240 acute sinus infection sufferers were assigned to one of four groups for different treatments -- a full antibiotic (amoxicillin) course for one week combined with steroid spray for 10 days... just the spray and a placebo "antibiotic"... just the amoxicillin and a placebo spray... or placebo for both. Neither the antibiotic nor steroid, alone or in combination, proved effective in treating sinus infection. It is, however, important to recognize that despite these results, sometimes antibiotics are necessary -- meningitis is a rare but real risk from acute sinusitis. Thoroughly conduct your own research and speak in length to your health care practitioner about whether antibiotic treatment is appropriate for you or your family in each circumstance.
Resources: NaturalNews.com, Nature.com, ImmunizationInfo.com, CBN.com, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), National Institute of Health, Journal of the American Medical Association.