Over-prescribing or improperly using antibiotics can make some bacterial infections impossible to cure, but it’s not always easy to get patients to understand they really don’t need that pill or shot.
This is Antibiotic Awareness Week, and Floyd’s Antimicrobial Stewardship team is working to help health care providers educate patients on the proper use of antibiotics.
“Often patients expect to get an antibiotic every time they have a cold, sore throat, or the flu and they pressure their physicians to prescribe them,” said Gary Latta, Clinical Pharmacy Coordinator at Floyd Medical Center. “What patients don’t realize is that these infections are caused primarily by viruses and antibiotics can’t kill viruses.”
The flu, for instance, is caused by a virus. A vaccination might prevent the illness and anti-viral medication can be used to treat it. An antibiotic, however, can’t kill the virus.
“Most illnesses are viral in nature and antibiotics won’t help; they can actually cause harm by increasing drug resistant bacteria and can upset the child’s stomach,” said Floyd Pediatrics Dr. Tyler Barnes.
Barnes said some parents get upset when he tells them he is not comfortable prescribing an antibiotic when the illness is likely a virus.
“I think it is important to make the public aware of why we do what we do,” Barnes said. “Most parents understand once we explain it to them.”
Dr. Elizabeth Smith, who is also a Floyd pediatrician, said parents are becoming more willing to listen to discussions about the issue.
“We will often discuss the lack of benefit of antibiotics for viral illnesses and the side effects of unnecessary antibiotic use,” Smith said.
It is also important to always take antibiotics exactly as they are prescribed and to finish the entire dosage.
“Many patients stop taking an antibiotic when they start to feel better,” Latta said. “This results in bacteria not being completely eliminated from the body and instead build up a resistance to the drugs intended to kill them.”
Floyd Medical Center and Polk Medical Center have each been awarded gold status on the Honor Roll for Antibiotic Stewardship by the Georgia Department of Public Health for their efforts to safely and effectively administer antibiotics.
The Georgia Honor Roll for Antibiotic Stewardship was established in 2014 in an effort to improve antimicrobial stewardship at critical access and acute care facilities statewide.