On Your Health

Check back to the INTEGRIS On Your Health blog for the latest health and wellness information for all Oklahomans, published three times a week.

Don't Bug Your Doctor for Antibiotics

I'm Dr. Mary Ann Bauman. Today we're going to talk about antibiotics, when to use them, and more important when not to use them. Now antibiotics have been life-saving since they were first introduced in the 1940s. Antibiotics kill bacteria. Bacteria are live organisms that reproduce. Some are very good for us and some of them cause infections and illness. They are different than viruses. Viruses are not alive. Viruses are genetic material wrapped in protein and they need a host to reproduce. They can't reproduce on their own. Antibiotics kill bacteria. Antibiotics do not kill viruses because viruses are not alive. Therein is the problem and the issue. Because we take antibiotics so often for so many things. And so many times when we don't have a bacterial infection. A study done that said that when patients ask or bug doctors for antibiotics they get an antibiotic sixty-two percent of the time. When the doctor just decides if they need an antibiotic in the patient hasn't asked for one only seven percent of the time. Those are the times when the doctor really feels you need an antibiotic. That's when you need to take it. And so when you take this antibiotic it may kill the bacteria causing your sore throat, if you have a strep throat. It's not going to do anything if you have a virus. But bacteria will start to fight that antibiotic and develop resistance. The Centers for Disease Control says that antibiotic resistance is one of the world's most pressing problems right now because think about this. These bacteria become totally resistant. We won't be able to fight life-threatening infections and people will die. So what should you do? Number one. If you are given an antibiotic take it all. If you just take it until you feel better for a few days well then those bacteria have been exposed they can develop the resistance and you have more of a problem later. Secondly don't take somebody else's antibiotic. It was designed for them all you get is perhaps the wrong antibiotic and resistant bacteria. Don't bug your doctor for an antibiotic if you don't need it. If your doctor thinks it's a virus it's not going to help you. I heard one doctor say that even if you're sputum or what's coming out of your nose is as green as a new mowed grass. its viral and you don't need an antibiotic. That's one of the things people think if there's a color to it they have to have an antibiotic. People think if I start this now I won't get sicker because have a wedding this weekend or I'm going out of town. It doesn't work that way. What I tell my patients is If you have a cold and you take an antibiotic you're going to get better in seven days. If you don't take the antibiotic you're going to get better in a week. Think about it. So the moral of this story is antibiotics are very very important. But they can cause risks both to you and to everyone. So don't bug your doctor for an antibiotic because you don't want resistant bugs bugging you. I'm Dr. Mary Ann Bauman.

Subscribe to the INTEGRIS On Your Health blog

Subscribe for weekly emails full of useful and interesting Oklahoma-centric health and wellness info, from the doctors and health experts at INTEGRIS.