News and info hub

Guidelines for antibiotic use

Antibiotics are powerful medications used to fight bacterial infections, but the misuse of these drugs has resulted in the growing threat of antibiotic resistance. Here’s what you can do to help yourself.

Proper antibiotic use

Not all infections should be treated with antibiotics – it can be harmful to take an antibiotic when you don’t need it because it can result in antibiotic resistance. Antibiotic-resistant bacteria render the medication ineffective, which could be life-threatening to anyone that has a severe infection like sepsis.

To prevent antibiotic resistance, you should ask the following questions before you start a course of treatment:

1. Do I really need an antibiotic?
Why: Antibiotics should be prescribed for bacterial infections not viral infections like the common cold, flu or most sinus infections. When you take an antibiotic and you don’t need it, you increase the risk of antibiotic resistance, which can cause impossible-to-treat infections at a later stage.

2. Has this antibiotic been prescribed for me?
Why: You should only take an antibiotic that has been prescribed for your particular infection. Do not share medication with someone else and always take the medication as directed. Antibiotics are not preventive medicines, so it won’t help to take them before you become ill.

3. What are the risks of taking this medication?
Why: There are side effects of antibiotics, such as diarrhoea and vomiting. Sometimes people stop taking their antibiotics because of the side effects and this increases the risk of resistance.

4. What do you do if you have a serious reaction to the medication?
Why: Your doctor or pharmacist should advise you about who to see if you experience side effects or a possible allergic reaction to the medication. Always consult with a healthcare professional if you plan to stop taking a prescribed medication.

5. Are there special instructions on taking this antibiotic?
Why: It’s important to know if you should take the medication before or after a meal, or with or without water, and if you should take a probiotic to protect your good gut bacteria. These all help to increase the medication’s efficacy and reduce side effects.

How to prevent antibiotic resistance

Many people believe that antimicrobial resistance is a global problem that rests with health departments and governments. However, individuals also have an important role to play to prevent the spread of resistant bacteria.

If you are given an antibiotic for a viral infection, you could carry the resistant bacteria in your gut. If these bacteria cause an infection, antibiotics might be ineffective in treating it and put your health at risk. Below are examples of situations where antibiotic resistance could pose a serious threat to your health:

  • Chemotherapy is an effective weapon in the fight against cancer, but it destroys white blood cells, which makes the patient vulnerable to infection. If there are no antibiotics to fight infection, the patient’s life is at risk.
  • Antibiotics are vital during organ transplants, which can leave the patient more susceptible to infection. With an already suppressed immune system to prevent the rejection of the transplanted organ, antibiotics become essential for survival.
  • Every surgery carries with it a risk of infection and complication. Surgery is designed to save lives, but if we don’t have antibiotics, life-saving surgery could become life-threatening.

The information is shared on condition that readers will make their own determination, including seeking advice from a healthcare professional. E&OE. Life Healthcare Group Ltd does not accept any responsibility for any loss or damage suffered by the reader as a result of the information provided.