Put Down The Antibiotics
November 21, 2013

Put Down The Antibiotics

As I wrote about in the last couple of weeks, I was direly ill. I have not been that ill in a long time. I had a severe sinus infection, one of only a handful I have had in my life. In fact, I have only had the flu three or four times my entire life, and I can’t receive the flu shot, so that is just based on staying healthy. I just do not get ill.

This means that I do not often have antibiotics in my system. Actually, this recent sinus infection required I take antibiotics, and I figured it had been at least 21 years since the last time I took antibiotics. Now, part of that is because I am highly, deathly allergic to many of them, but it is also because I have not often been ill enough to require them.

I am one of the few Americans who are not overly exposed to antibiotics. In fact, redOrbit writer Brett Smith recently explained that the “American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is calling for the more judicious use of the bacteria-battling drugs.” For quite some time now, antibiotics have received the focus of debate about their overuse. Now, the AAP points out that many children and even adults receive prescriptions for symptoms caused by viruses, viruses like a common cold or the flu. Antibiotics cannot help a common cold nor can they help with the flu. Antibiotics cure bacterial infections. The common cold and flu are viruses. Yet people often demand an antibiotic and doctors comply.

Overuse of antibiotics has greater impact than just unnecessary medications in our systems; they could possibly lead to antibiotic-resistant bacteria. As redOrbit reports, “Antibiotic-resistant bacteria are a significant public health threat as they infect over 2 million Americans each year, resulting in about 23,000 deaths – according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While antibiotics are designed to kill bacteria, some are able to survive the drugs, and these survivors pass their resistance along to future generations of bacteria that then multiply.”

So, basically this means that the overuse of antibiotics makes them useless. Furthermore, it could mean that people will be more susceptible to super bugs because our bodies have built up a resistance to the very medications meant to kill infections. This is scary. Period.

redOrbit notes that if antibiotic use is required, one should use narrow-spectrum antibiotics; that is, those that kill specific infection-causing germs but not the other bacteria. When we take broad-spectrum ones, we risk fostering antibiotic resistance because these kill all bacteria in our systems.

This article made me sigh a bit of relief because I have not had too many antibiotics. For my recent illness, I was not comfortable taking the antibiotic for just these reasons. Plus, my near-death experiences with antibiotics in my youth made me a bit shy about taking them. But the sinusitis was just too much, and I needed something to help. So, I took my azithromycin pack, carefully waiting for my throat to close up. Much to my surprise, I did not have the allergic reaction. I did however feel, well, gross. So I have been eating yogurt with live cultures, and will continue to do so even more than how I did before. And I plan to avoid illness by eating right, exercising, washing my hands, and avoiding those who clearly have the icks.

I know that I am safe right now from overuse of antibiotics, but we all need to be aware of these very real dangers of antibiotic resistance and super bugs. We need to know what we can take antibiotics to fight and what we can’t. We need to be aware of what antibiotics are less damaging and dangerous. We need to take control of our health, our medications, and our bodies.

Image Credit: Thinkstock

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Rayshell E. Clapper is an Associate Professor of English at a rural college in Oklahoma where she teaches Creative Writing, Literature, and Composition classes. She has presented her original fiction and non-fiction at several conferences and events including: Scissortail Creative Writing Festival, Howlers and Yawpers Creativity Symposium, Southwest/Texas Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association Regional Conference, and Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association National Conference. Her publications include Cybersoleil Journal, Sugar Mule Literary Magazine, Red Dirt Anthology, Originals, and Oklahoma English Journal. Beyond her written works, she successfully created a writer's group in rural Oklahoma to support burgeoning writers. The written word is her passion, and all she experiences inspires that passion. She hopes to help inspire others through her words.

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