BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Doctors across the country are sounding the alarm about antibiotics. They’re lifesavers when used correctly, but there’s a danger too. Overprescribing antibiotics puts the entire population at risk, and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) calls it one of the biggest risks to public health.
Flu season has already hit Louisiana hard. The Bayou State has the most cases in the country. As patients flock to doctor’s offices, it’s important to remember that the flu and the common cold are caused by viruses. That means an antibiotic will do nothing to help.
“We’re still going to see patients who come in and are going to ask for antibiotics, because they think it’s going to be a quick fix,” explained Dr. Tatiana Saavedra at the Baton Rouge Clinic.“But I think knowledge will continue to improve, and hopefully we’ll have less patients who request antibiotics for certain things.”
It’s a conversation Dr. Saavedra has with many of her patients. Antibiotics should only be used to treat infections caused by bacteria, like strep throat, bacterial pneumonia, and urinary tract infections, but all too often, doctors hand out antibiotics like candy. That overuse makes it easier for bacteria to adapt and become resistant.
“We may reach a point in time where we have a lot of really, really resistant bacteria that we don't have drugs to treat, and so ultimately what that will mean is that you'll have deaths related to these infections,” Saavedra said.
Those deaths are already happening. More than 2.8 million antibiotic-resistant infections occur in the U.S. every year, and more than 35,000 people die as a result, according to the CDC. The agency says about 30% of antibiotic prescriptions are unnecessary. The CDC has launched a campaign to educate the public and doctors.
“It really boils down to a physician knowing when’s the right time to use it and when it’s not the right time to use it, but beyond that, making sure that when a physician does deem that we need to use an antibiotic, that he or she chooses the right one at the right dose for the right duration of time,” Saavedra said.
When you are prescribed an antibiotic, doctors say it's important you take every pill and never share them with friends or family. Not finishing the entire course can make it easier for bacteria to become resistant.