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Protect Your Family from Antibiotic-Resistance

  • Category: General Health
  • Posted On:
  • Written By: Matt Gougler

Kids are heading back to school soon, which means the lazy days of summer will be replaced by the too-much-to-do days of the academic year. It also means that your offspring's odds of encountering germs will rise significantly, potentially resulting in a bacterial infection.

While we'd all prefer to avoid illnesses of any kind, those caused by bacteria have become increasingly difficult to treat in recent years. The reason is rooted in antibiotics. Antibiotics first began to be used widely in the 1940s and proved to be extremely effective. With each passing decade, not only did antibiotic use soar skyward, but this medication often was prescribed inappropriately—such as for treating the common cold—which is caused by a virus, not bacteria.

As a result of the rampant overuse of antibiotics, many forms of bacteria have become resistant to antibiotic treatment and have morphed into "superbugs" that can be fatal. In fact, annually in America, at least 2-million people get infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and at least 23,000 die each year as a result.

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria are a serious health threat worldwide, and that's why ATRIO Health Plans is sharing steps you can take to help keep superbugs at bay.

Take a Stand Against Superbugs

Infectious disease doctors make the following recommendations:

  • Reduce risks of hospitalization—As counterintuitive as it sounds, the vast majority of antibiotic-resistant bugs are contracted by hospitalized patients. While hospitalization often is unavoidable, the goal is to pursue a healthy lifestyle and thus reduce the likelihood of hospitalization. Additionally, keep your home and workspace clean. Proper food preparation also is important; carefully wash all fruits as well as vegetables, and be mindful of not undercooking meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs.
  • Wash hands religiously—While it's the opposite of high-tech, washing your hands vigorously and consistently is among the most effective weapons against antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Wash your hands before: preparing food; eating food; caring for someone who's ill; treating a wound.

Wash your hands after: preparing food; using the restroom; changing a diaper; blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing; touching an animal, animal feed, or animal waste; handling pet food or treats; touching garbage.

Also, if you're a patient, you absolutely have the right to ask your healthcare providers if they've washed their hands prior to entering the room.

  • Opt for a flu shot—Not only is contracting influenza unpleasant in and of itself, but it also increases your risk of acquiring an antibiotic-resistant bacterium, such as community-acquired MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) which can be fatal. Prevention is key, and a flu shot is the most effective form of prevention.
  • Don't automatically ask for or accept antibiotics—Superbugs emerged because physicians have overprescribed antibiotics, often acquiescing to patients' demands for the medication that weren't warranted. So, don't be that person. Also, if you're prescribed an antibiotic, ask your healthcare provider to explain which bacterium is being treated and if the only option is an antibiotic.
  • Be vigilant for hospitalized loved ones—Hospitals are the most prevalent source of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and these superbugs are primarily spread through tubes inserted in the body, such as catheters. If a loved one is hospitalized, serve as his or her advocate by asking care-team members if a catheter—or any other tube—is still necessary.

There's no question that antibiotics have saved countless lives, but these drugs have been abused, and we have the superbugs to prove it. If we all follow the experts' recommendations, we can stem the antibiotic-resistance tide.