Antibiotic resistance – are you at risk?

The World Health Organization has warned that antibiotic resistance is one of the greatest threats to human health today.

Antibiotic resistance happens when bacteria change to protect themselves from an antibiotic. When this happens, antibiotics that previously would have killed the bacteria, or stopped them from multiplying, no longer work. Australia has one of the highest antibiotic prescription rates in the world, with around 29 million prescriptions issued annually. The more antibiotics are used, the more chances bacteria have to become resistant to them.

So how do you know if you are at risk?

Major causes of antibiotic resistance comes from:

  • Using antibiotics when they are not needed, or
  • Not taking antibiotics at the doses and times that a doctor prescribes — this allows time for the bacteria in your system to become resistant.

Practising good hygiene is an important way to help prevent the spread of infection and antibiotic resistance. Regular hand washing, using soap and running water, is one of the best defences against many of the viruses, bacteria and other microbes that can make us sick. When water is not available, in the car or on public transport for example, alcohol-based hand sanitisers are a convenient, portable and effective option.

The above information is an exert from “The Future of Antibiotics is in your Hands” issued by NPS Medicine Wise as part of World Antibiotics Awareness Week 2017. For more information click this link to download your tool kit: NPS-Medicine-Wise-Toolkit

Got questions? Ask Dr Sir-Kit Leong from SmartClinics in Brisbane…

Q: My GP has prescribed antibiotics. Should I say no and not take them?

Dr Leong: Antibiotics are safe to take, the problem lies in them not being taken properly. If your Doctor prescribes antibiotics to you it’s because they have diagnosed you as having a bacterial infection (which is a type of germ/bug). It is important to know that only bacteria will be effectively treated by the appropriate antibiotics and not a virus, like the common cold or flu. So you can still safely take antibiotics, just be sure to take the whole batch and follow the instructions of your Doctor.

Q: Are there some antibiotics that are better than others?

Dr Leong: No. Doctors treat specific infections with the narrow spectrum antibiotic. The antibiotic selected by your Doctor is targeted for a specific infection.

Q: How do I know when antibiotics are not needed?

Dr Leong: Antibiotics are used only for bacterial infections – not for viruses like the common cold. Symptoms of virus can sometimes mimic bacteria. As a general note, a viral infection tends to last longer than bacterial infection. It may take some time to diagnose a bacterial infection through examination and at times, investigations such as laboratory specimen swab and analysis. The best option is to consult your GP before deciding on what course of medication to take.

Q: I have a constant cough that is not going away, ‘stuffy blocked/runny’ nose , pain on chest for days and I feel awful/unwell- I felt better taking antibiotics for these symptoms in the past. Shouldn’t I just take the same antibiotics?

Dr Leong: No, these symptoms are likely of viral infections and it can take up to three weeks on average for them to go away. These symptoms occur because your body is fighting the viruses and hence you feel unwell.  Your immune system is powerful enough to fight against most viral infections. The key message is not to take antibiotics in the first instance and have your doctor reviewing your symptoms over time.

CLICK HERE for more information about Dr Sir-Kit Leong or call (07) 3268 1937.