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Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Antibiotics: Uses, Benefits and Side Effects

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Antibiotics are a group of drugs that destroy harmful microorganisms and it also inhibits their growth. There are generally used in the treatment of infections caused by bacteria. Antibiotic means “against life” and any drug that kills germs is an antibiotic.

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Before he invention of antibiotics, a lot of people died from minor bacterial infection, there was an increased rate of death after surgery due to infections. The invention of antibiotics led to safer surgeries, lower death rate via surgery infections, and deadly infections can be easily treated now.

Antibiotics are only effective against bacteria, it cannot treat infections caused by viruses and other microorganisms. This type of infections which includes stomach flu, most sore throat, common flu, bronchitis, and coughs cannot be treated with antibiotics but antiviral drugs and sometimes patients are told to rest and eat well that the illness will wear out and this is true.

A test is usually conducted before the prescription of drugs, this helps your doctor to know if the infection is caused by a bacteria or a virus. There are two types of antibiotics; the “broad-spectrum” antibiotics kill a wide range of bacteria while “narrow-spectrum” antibiotics kill specific strains of bacteria.

Side Effects of Antibiotics

There are many advantages and importance of antibiotics but they also come with side effects; the main adverse side effect is that they affect the digestive system negatively while they treat the infection.

They kill both the good and bad bacteria present in the gut, the good bacteria also known as “probiotics” carry out a lot of important functions in the body and when their population is reduced, a lot of health problems can arise including infections, malabsorption, and digestive problems.

Another negative impact of antibiotic is that they prevent birth control pills from working, so women on birth control pills should ask their doctor’s alternative method of birth control.
Other side effects of antibiotics are:

Women on antibiotics can get vaginal yeast infections because the number of healthy bacteria protecting that region has been reduced. They will experience itching, swellings, a burning sensation, vaginal discharge, and they may also experience painful sexual intercourse.

These side effects can also mean that you are allergic to the antibiotic, so, it will be better to let your doctor know so that he can change the medication for you.

What is Antibiotic Resistance?

Antibiotics are powerful and should only be used carefully and under the supervision of a doctor; it must not be self-prescribed to avoid misuse and abuse which can lead to antibiotic resistance.

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The World Health Organization (WHO) has described antibiotic resistance as a threat to global health and it is responsible for 23,000 deaths and at least 2 million infections every year; it is also responsible for the high cost of health care.

It also leads to a lot of health complications. New resistance mechanisms are emerging every day and spreading globally; this makes common infections untreatable, harder or even impossible.

Antibiotic resistance is a phenomenon whereby antibiotics become ineffective, this occurs when bacteria change their responses to these drugs. It is said to be the ability of a microorganism to withstand the effects of an antibiotic.

It is the bacteria that become resistant to the antibiotic, not you and this leads to infections that are hard to treat, spending longer days in the hospital and high cost of treatment.

Antibiotic resistance can occur naturally but the leading cause of this threatening condition is indiscriminate use and abuse of antibiotics in both humans and animals. This problem is rampant in countries or region of the world where there are no strict rules guiding the prescription and intake of antibiotics.

This has led to an increase in growing number of infections despite the use and availability of infections, infections such as salmonella, gonorrhea, and pneumonia are becoming difficult to treat due to the ineffectiveness of the antibiotics used in treating them.

WHO are suggesting that laws should be made to make the purchase of antibiotics without a doctor’s prescription illegal. Countries having these laws also have the problem of antibiotic resistance because health workers and veterinarians often over-prescribe these drugs for people and animals.

Without addressing the problems of misuse, abuse, and over-prescription of antibiotics, this problem will still persist even new antibiotics are developed. Behavior change towards antibiotic can help reduce the menace of antibiotic resistance.

Proper hygiene, regular washing of hands and practicing safe sex are other ways we can reduce the use of antibiotics thereby reducing antibiotic resistance. If an urgent action is not taken on this issue, then the world will be heading back to the pre-antibiotic era where minor infections and injuries killed people.

How to Prevent and Control Antibiotic Resistance?

The leading cause of antibiotic resistance is the overuse and abuse of antibiotics, useful steps that can be taken to reduce, prevent, or control this re-occurrence are:

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  • Antibiotics should only be used when it is prescribed by a medical doctor and it should be taken according to the prescription.
  • Do not demand antibiotics or coerce your doctor to prescribe it for you if he or she says that you don’t need them.
  • Don’t remain your antibiotics or use someone’s leftover
  • Practice good hygiene and always wash your hands regularly using soap and water
  • Policy makers should make information on the impact of antibiotic resistance on individual’s health and the society available to all
  • A robust national action plan should be taken to tackle this menace
  • There should be improved surveillance on antibiotic-resistant infections
  • There should be strong policies, programmes, and implementation of control measures for infections and also prevention of infections
  • The appropriate use of medicine and disposals should be regulated.
  • Health workers should ensure that their hands, environment, and instrument are well-cleaned to prevent infections.
  • Antibiotics should only be prescribed and dispensed when they are needed and this should be done according to the current guidelines
  • Patients should be educated on how to prevent infections, how to take antibiotics correctly, the dangers of antibiotic resistance and misuse.
  • Cases of antibiotic resistance should be reported to the surveillance team in the country.
  • Antibiotics should only be given to animals under veterinary supervision.
  • Antibiotics should not be used to promote growth or to prevent diseases in healthy animals.
  • Alternatives to antibiotics should be used on animals if available
  • Antibiotics should not be taken for viral infections
  • Don’t remain antibiotics to take for later, make sure you complete the dose
  • Do not skip doses
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Disclaimer: This article is purely informative & educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional.

Ebiojo David
I am a Biochemist and Naturopath, I love writing and educating people on health and wellness matters.

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