Antibiotic Resistance, What Is It and How to Avoid It


We’ve all heard the phrase “resistance to an antibiotic” but what does it mean? Antibiotic Resistance is defined as an antibiotic no longer having the desired effect on a certain strain of bacteria. To break it down further, it’s when an antibiotic that should cure a bacterium, now suddenly doesn’t cure because it’s been overused and it’s tired. So, cross that medication off of your list because it no longer works. Move on to another drug. If this occurs one too many times, then you will have no more drugs to choose from. That’s what being resistant to an antibiotic implies.

An animated bacteria character with sunglasses, giving a thumbs-up

Antibiotics treat BACTERIAL INFECTIONS but are not necessary for VIRAL INFECTIONS. For example, an antibiotic is an appropriate treatment for strep throat, which is caused by a strain of strep bacteria but it’s not the treatment of choice for other sore throats, which are caused by viruses. Simple salt water gargling, time, and Tylenol will work for the viral sore throat. Only your PCP can determine if that sore throat is a viral sore throat or a bacterial sore throat requiring antibiotics to clear. The same principle is when dealing with frequent Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs). Attempt to flush that UTI out before immediately visiting your physician for antibiotics. We want those antibiotics to work when needed. Some sore throats and some UTIs can clear on their own with a bit of patience.

By taking an antibiotic when you have a viral infection, that antibiotic attacks bacteria in your body — bacteria that are either beneficial or at least not causing sickness. This inappropriate treatment can then promote antibiotic-resistant properties in harmless bacteria or create an opportunity for potentially harmful bacteria to replace the harmless ones. Allow me to break it down further…let’s say you are going fishing. Would you throw a bomb into the ocean to get your fish or use a quiet, gentle fishing pole? The fish is not a whale, just as all sore throats do not require antibiotics to treat them.

So, what can you do to prevent antibiotic resistance?

  • Use antibiotics only as prescribed by your doctor. Take the prescribed daily dosage, don’t skip doses, and complete the entire course of treatment. It’s tempting to stop taking an antibiotic as soon as you feel better. But the full treatment is necessary to kill the disease-causing bacteria. Failure to take an antibiotic as prescribed can result in the need to resume treatment later and may promote the spread of antibiotic-resistant properties among harmful bacteria.
  • If you’re instructed to stop an antibiotic, safely throw it away (find a Designated Drug Drop off location). You may be instructed to stop an antibiotic because that drug is not effective on the strain of bacteria causing the illness.
  • Never save leftover antibiotics for a later illness.
  • Never take antibiotics prescribed for another person.
  • Never take an antibiotic for a viral infection. Some common viral infections include: colds, flu, stomach bugs
  • And….wash your hands frequently

Let’s all do our part to take our antibiotics responsibly. They are so important in our lives for fighting infections but only as long as they perform their intended job when needed.

It’s all good,

Patty, BSN, RN