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The Illinois Department of Public Health has launched an antibiotic awareness campaign to get people to think twice before taking the commonly overused medication.
While antibiotics can save lives, people tend to use them when they’re not needed. As much as 50 percent of all antibiotics prescribed are not needed or are not as effective as prescribed, according to an IDPH news release.
“Antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria no longer respond to the drugs designed to kill them,” Illinois Department of Public Health Director Nirav Shah said in a statement. “Antibiotic-resistant bacteria are much deadlier and more difficult to treat. Taking antibiotics when they are not needed can cause side effects such as rashes, nausea, diarrhea, yeast infections, and dizziness. It can also lead to antibiotic resistance, one of the most urgent threats to the public’s health.”
As much as 50 percent of the antibiotics that are prescribed are not needed, according to the IDPH. Such overuse can lead to antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Each year in the U.S., at least two million people become infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria and at least 23,000 die.
“When people don’t feel well, they want a quick fix,” said Dr. Kathy Tynus, president of the Illinois State Medical Society and a practicing internal medicine physician at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. “They want something that is going to help them get better.
“As much as we’d like to as physicians, we don’t really have this magic bullet to get rid of a virus," Tynus said. "A virus has to run its course and as long as you’re otherwise healthy it is going to go away.”
To fight symptoms of the common cold, Tynus recommends acetaminophen, nasal sprays, getting plenty of rest and drinking tea with honey for a sore throat.
She also recommends proper hygiene with regular handwashing.
“Eating right, getting enough sleep, exercising – those are all things you can do to maintain your general health and fight off an infection,” Tynus said.
Tynus does encourage people to know the difference between a common cold and the flu as the flu can be treated with antibiotics. Flu symptoms include a cough, headache, fever and malaise, she said.
“The flu is kind of a cold on steroids,” she said. “You just feel absolutely miserable. You can’t do your usual activities.”
Tynus urges patients with flu symptoms to call a physician.
The goal of the Illinois Department of Public Health’s campaign is to foster knowledge about the problem and improve the way health care providers prescribe antibiotics.