PINEHURST — Antibiotics save lives, but their overuse and misuse can put patients at unnecessary risk for preventable side effects and drug-resistant infections.
Antimicrobial resistance has been increasing worldwide, according to the CDC. More than 2.8 million antimicrobial-resistant infections occur in the United States each year, and more than 35,000 people die as a result. AR occurs when bacteria no longer respond to antibiotics designed to kill them and is a threat to public health. COVID-19 increased the rates of AR due to increased hospitalization and uptick in antibiotic use.
FirstHealth of the Carolinas will join other health care networks and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Nov. 18-24 to take part in Antibiotic Awareness Week. The annual observance puts a special focus on appropriate antibiotic use to combat the threat of antibiotic resistance.
Heather Gibson, PharmD, BCPS, BCIDP, CPP, the antimicrobial stewardship pharmacist at Moore Regional Hospital said antibiotic resistance is an urgent threat to public health.
“When resistance happens in patients, antibiotics may not be able to fight bacteria,” she said. “This could mean a longer, more severe, and potentially life-threatening infection. At FirstHealth, we emphasize the importance of choosing the right antibiotic for patients and having patient files and allergy profiles completed to help providers choose the right medication.”
Overuse and misuse can occur when antibiotics are used to treat viral illnesses and when a broad-spectrum antibiotic is used to treat an infection that could be treated with a narrower one. At least 28 percent of antibiotic courses prescribed each year are unnecessary, the CDC found. Prescribing practices vary by clinician and patient demographic, which can contribute to antibiotic misuse.
Jolena Allred, DNP, FNP-BC, with FirstHealth Family Medicine, Seven Lakes said documenting detailed information is imperative to avoid antibiotic overuse in both the outpatient and inpatient environments.
“If we work to improve the use of antibiotics and antifungals now, we can ensure these life-saving drugs will be available for future generations,” Allred said. “Everyone has a role in helping combat AR. Working to prevent infections and educating people on the risks of resistance is important.”
During Antibiotic Awareness Week and throughout the year, CDC works to educate the public about when antibiotics are needed, when they are not, how to take antibiotics appropriately and potential side effects of antibiotics.
The CDC informs patients that:
- Antibiotics do not treat viruses, like those that cause colds, flu or COVID-19
- Antimicrobial resistance can affect people at any stage of life.
- Antibiotics are only needed for treating certain infections caused by bacteria, but even some bacterial infections get better without antibiotics. Antibiotics aren’t needed for many sinus infections and some ear infections.
- An antibiotic will not make you feel better if you have a virus. Respiratory viruses usually go away in a week or two without treatment.
- If you need antibiotics, take them exactly as prescribed. Talk with your health care professional if you have any questions about your antibiotics.
- You should talk with your health care professional if you develop any side effects, especially severe diarrhea, since that could be a C. diff infection, which needs immediate treatment.
To learn more, visit www.firsthealth.org.