Forks Community Hospital received two questions last week.
How does my prescription add to medication resistance? What is medication resistance?
Answer: First, let’s look at antibiotic prescriptions only. Antibiotics are built to kill bacteria (bugs) or stop bacteria from growing. In people, antibiotics are used to fight infections caused by bacteria but can cause side effects and antibiotic resistance at the same time.
Antibiotic resistance occurs when the bacteria become able to live in the presence of the antibiotic even though the antibiotic is supposed to kill the bacteria. Then the bacteria multiply and another treatment is needed to stop the infection.
How does antibiotic resistance occur? By misuse which can be taking antibiotics when they are not ordered or taken incorrectly, and by overuse when antibiotics are unnecessary like for a cold or flu and are given too often. Every time a person takes antibiotics, even when it is the right thing to do, some bacteria live (resistant bacteria) and over time there are more bacteria that are resistant to that antibiotic.
Some antibiotics that were used in the past can no longer be prescribed for the same infections treated earlier due to bacterial resistance. This can be deadly. If a bug can no longer be treated with antibiotics, those infections can lead to disability or death. Projections are that in the next 50 years unless we manage antibiotics correctly, people like the toddler or kindergarten child in the family may die in their middle age of what is now a simple infection because that bug will no longer be treatable.
Why should anyone be concerned about antibiotics that someone else is taking? Bacteria are everywhere. The resistant bacteria grow in general society too. Anyone who misuses or overuses antibiotics contributes to the increasing problem of resistance.
The smart use of antibiotics is very important to control the spread of resistance.
What is smart use of antibiotics? Many diseases can be prevented with a vaccination so make sure you are current. Tell your doctor you prefer taking steps to get better without antibiotics if possible. Ask if your condition is from a virus and if so, decline antibiotics designed for bacteria. It might be difficult to tell if you have a virus that will clear up in another day or so or if you have a bacterial infection that needs an antibiotic so the doctor may write a prescription but ask you to wait and fill it in a day or so only if you feel worse. If you do get an antibiotic, take it as directed by the doctor and avoid skipping doses. Most will tell you to stop taking it when you feel better in several days anyway. When your treatment is completed, throw away any remaining antibiotic by adding water to the bottle with soap or coffee grounds so it is unusable by anyone else. It is important that you avoid saving it for a future illness and do not give any to a family member or friend.
These actions help prevent resistant bacteria.
This is everyone’s problem. We are partnering with you to do something about this.
At Forks Community Hospital we have a multi-disciplinary team who started a focus on Antimicrobial Stewardship over 2+1/2 years ago. We have been participating in a teleconference every week with the University of Washington to combat this problem. Our efforts have been well done and we have received awards annually from the Washington State Department of Health. Last year we presented our program at a conference of the Washington State Hospital Association and even won a grant to enhance our services and education to staff.
During this holiday season, protect you and your loved ones by frequently and thoroughly washing your hands: Sing the Happy Birthday song twice in a row to make sure you spend enough time with the soap and water. Cover your cough and even wear a mask, even if you are well and want to stay that way by avoiding germs of others. Stay rested and minimize anxiety. Gratitude helps. The best gift for everyone is the gift of health.
Janet Schade, MS, RPh, Director of Pharmacy
Disclaimer: This column is not intended as a diagnosis or recommended treatment of a specific condition. Answers are not a replacement for an individual medical evaluation. Individual health concerns should be evaluated by a licensed clinician.
Do you have a question you would like answered by an expert from Forks Community Hospital? Please submit your questions to [email protected] and we will do our best to answer them here in the Forks Forum.