We know, we know: You feel like death and you need help, now. But if your doctor isn’t prescribing you that Z-Pak at the first sign of a sinus infection, it’s likely for your own good. The CDC estimates that 30 percent of antibiotics are prescribed unnecessarily — and that’s a big deal, because it leads to antibiotic resistance across the population. Before you storm out of the doctor’s office in a fit of rage, allow FirstHealth nurse practitioner Jolena Allred to explain.
Q: How long does someone have to take antibiotics to develop a resistance to them?
A: They could develop a resistance the first time they take them, and depending on the person it might not be needed. Most things don’t need antibiotic and when one is needed, sometimes we’re providing too long of a dosage. You don’t need to be on a 10-day antibiotic. Sometimes five is enough, and that’s shown in the research.
There are 2.8 million people who get infected with an antibiotic resistant bacteria and about 35,000 die as a result.
Q: How does resistance happen?
A: You body’s bacteria is smart. Anytime antibiotics are used, it can cause resistance. Antibiotics bring an abundance of flora and c difficile in a patient, which causes infection. This especially happens in patients who are 65 and older.
Q: How do you know if your infection is from a virus or bacteria?
A: The majority of upper respiratory tract infections, like bronchitis, are viral. We make a decision based on the patient. We know by evidence based on research. Some of the guidelines we use to make a decision is the patient’s history, vital signs, physical exam, how long they’ve had the infection and if they’ve tried anything else.
Q: Can a doctor refuse to prescribe an antibiotic if a patient asks for one?
A: We can because our role is to take care of the patient and do no harm. We don’t like to use the word “refuse,” but we do like to re-educate them to do the right thing.
Q: What has FirstHealth done to educate the public on antibiotic resistance?
A: The CDC issued a global public health threat, warning us that we aren’t going to have antibiotics that work because of improper use. Doctors are giving them when they’re not needed, so FirstHealth started an an Antibiotic Stewardship program. Working together, we focus on giving presentations to doctors in the community on antibiotic resistance. We even created a pocket guide for healthcare professionals that lists symptoms and guides them to make the decision of whether or not an antibiotic is necessary.
Q: What steps of action do you advise patients to take when they feel horrible and aren’t prescribed antibiotics?
A: We usually advise standard things like over-the-counter medication, plenty of fluids to break up mucus and rest. We’ve had a lot of patients that have had luck with menthol balms and creams to really open up their airways. Prevention is key as well. People should be frequently washing their hands and avoid touching their face.
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