Reducing the Problem of Antibiotic Resistance

Antibiotics - using them wisely

Do you really need an antibiotic?

Even though, according to an Ipsos-Reid poll conducted in 2002, 28% of Canadians incorrectly believe that "most colds and flus can be treated successfully with antibiotics", the fact is antibiotics won't help. Cold and flu symptoms, including runny nose, watery eyes, dry cough, sore throat, chills, aches and pains, are caused by viruses, which won't respond to antibiotic treatment. Taking antibiotics for a cold or the flu can add to the problem of antibiotic resistance. But perceptions are changing as Canadians learn more about antibiotic resistance, and 63% of Canadians are now less likely to ask for a prescription when they have a cold or the flu.

When should you take your antibiotics?

You should take your antibiotics at the same time every day, according to the instructions from your doctor and pharmacist. Medicines stay in your system for a certain amount of time, which means that taking antibiotics irregularly will allow bacteria to adapt and multiply, adding to the problem of antibiotic resistance. Take your pills at the same time as another regular daily activity, like meals, to help you stay on schedule. Posting a reminder notice on your fridge or programming a reminder into your computer can also help.

Should you take all your antibiotics?

You might start feeling better a few days after starting your antibiotics. Do not stop taking them, and do not save the remainder for the next time you aren't feeling well. You must take all your medication in order to kill the bacteria completely. Otherwise, some of the dangerous bacteria may not die and you might get sick again. The bacteria that survive after an incomplete treatment can become resistant and make the infection you already have even harder to treat. Statistics show that one in five Canadians stop taking their medication once they start feeling better, adding to the problem of antibiotic resistance. Also, as with all medications, do not share your prescription with others.

What should you do if you are not getting better with your antibiotics?

Ask your doctor what you should do if you do not feel better after a few days of taking the antibiotic you have been prescribed.

If your doctor prescribes an antibiotic, it is very important that you:

  • Follow the instructions
  • Take the medication on time
  • Finish all of the medication, even if you feel better after a few days of treatment
  • Never take another person's antibiotics

These guidelines are important because when antibiotics aren't used as they should be, the weak bacteria are killed, but the stronger, more resistant ones survive and multiply. These resistant bacteria can cause infections that are very difficult to treat, which means that antibiotics might not work as well when they are really needed.

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