Get Smart About Antibiotics Week

Antibiotic resistance is a growing problem and the FDA and CDC are promoting awareness

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Do you know what antibiotic resistance is? Do you know why it is an important problem? Do you know what you can do to help combat this problem?

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other partners are sponsoring Get Smart About Antibiotics Week. 

The campaign is designed to tell people about antibiotic resistance and teach them how to do their part.

"Always finish an antibiotic prescription."

Antibiotic resistance means that antibiotics are no longer able to kill bacteria that cause infection. When this happens, some minor illnesses can become a major problem. Antibiotic resistance can be caused by overuse or misuse of antibiotics.

What Americans Think

The Pew Research group did a telephone survey to find out what American’s know about antibiotic resistance. They found that most people (87 percent) knew that antibiotics are good for bacterial infections. But 36 percent said they thought that antibiotics were helpful for viral infections, like a cold.

People said they thought antibiotic resistance was about a person becoming resistant to a certain antibiotic.  Many didn’t realize that it’s about the bacteria becoming resistant.

About half the people surveyed said they didn’t think that antibiotic resistance was likely to affect them personally.

About 39 percent didn’t think that one person’s misuse of antibiotics could affect their community.

What Antibiotic Resistance Really Is

Antibiotics are only effective at fighting bacteria. They don’t work against viruses. When antibiotics are misused or overused, the bacteria can learn to be resistant to that type of antibiotic.

So they gather defenses that make it so that an antibiotic can’t kill them.

When an antibiotic becomes resistant, anyone in your community or family that is infected by the resistant version will have trouble treating that infection.

What You Can Do

The Get Smart About Antibiotics Week is from November 12-18. The CDC and FDA are highlighting information and tips on their websites.

The CDC factsheet for the week warns that overusing antibiotics adds to antibiotic resistance. It also notes that about 50 percent of antibiotics that are prescribed are for viruses and colds.

The CDC also warns that antibiotics do have side effects, and children are especially prone to side effects of these medications. They estimate that about 3 out of every 10 children who go to a doctor with a cold will get an antibiotic

Here’s what you can do to help fight against antibacterial resistance:

  • Use antibiotics exactly the way your doctor says to. Finish all the doses in your bottle.
  • Don’t share antibiotics with others or keep leftover pills for later use.
  • Avoid infections by hand washing and getting vaccines.
  • Don’t ask for antibiotics from your doctor. Your doctor knows the best treatment.
Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
November 15, 2012
Last Updated:
May 15, 2013