Mind and Body

Americans Need to Learn More about Antibiotics

Do antibiotics cure the common cold? If you answered yes, you've got good company in being wrong. A recent poll found that many Americans don't know enough about antibiotics and their proper use.

Photo of man in his pajamas, sneezing

Poll results revealing

The CDC surveyed more than 1,000 people nationwide. Most of those surveyed correctly knew that antibiotics are used to treat bacterial infections. But more than 33 percent believed in error that such drugs also work on viruses, such as a cold and the flu.

Other revealing statistics focused on antibiotic resistance. Forty-one percent of those surveyed had heard little or never heard about the topic. Of those who knew about it, their understanding wasn't always correct. For example, many people believed that antibiotic resistance happens to the person taking the antibiotic. They thought that he or she builds up a tolerance to the medication. But it's actually the bacteria that become resistant to the drug. In turn, the drug becomes less effective in treating the bacteria.

Why the concern?

Antibiotic resistance poses a serious concern for doctors and patients. That's because the overuse of antibiotics has fueled the growing number of "superbugs." These are infections that have become hard to treat with antibiotics. Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, commonly known as MRSA, is one example. The number of Americans hospitalized for MRSA jumped from 2,000 to nearly 370,000 from 1993 to 2005.

The use of antibiotics is declining. It has dropped by 17 percent since 1999. But Americans can do more to prevent antibiotic resistance. Lauri Hicks, D.O., medical director of the "Get Smart: Know When Antibiotics Work" program at the CDC, offers these tips:

  • Talk with your doctor about when to properly use antibiotics.

  • Always take antibiotics as prescribed. Use them until they are gone even if you feel better.

  • Stay up to date on recommended vaccinations.

  • Prevent illness in the first place by washing your hands often.

Always talk with your health care provider to find out more information.

Online Resources

(Our Organization is not responsible for the content of Internet sites.)

CDC - Get Smart: Know When Antibiotics Work

FDA - Combating Antibiotic Resistance

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases - Antimicrobial (Drug) Resistance

January 2013

6 Hand-Washing Tips

It can prevent colds, food poisoning, and even the flu-all without a prescription. What is this medical wonder? Simple hand-washing. According to experts, washing your hands regularly is one of the best ways to protect yourself from harmful germs and prevent passing them on to others.

Crucial times to make sure that you wash your hands include after using the bathroom, before and after preparing food, before eating, and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. In order to get the most out of this key step to good hygiene, consider these hand-washing tips:

  • Use the right hand-washing tools. You need clean, preferably warm, running water and soap.

  • Take your time! Soapy hands should be rubbed together for 20 seconds. This is about as long as it takes to sing the birthday song twice.

  • Go for full coverage. Scrub your hands, wrists, fingernails, and between fingers.

  • Rinse and dry hands using a paper towel or air dryer. If possible, use your paper towel to turn off the water.

  • Use a sanitizer. If you can't get to soap and water, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer to clean your hands.

Always talk with your health care provider to find out more information.

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