As a part of on-going efforts to prevent the proliferation of antibiotic resistant bacteria, the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) is reminding Rhode Islanders about the importance of using antibiotics properly. People should only use antibiotics when it is necessary, and antibiotics should be used exactly as they are prescribed.
Antibiotics save lives, but any time antibiotics are used, they can cause side effects and can lead to antibiotic resistance. Antibiotic resistance is one of the most urgent public health threats in the U.S. today. Antibiotic resistance does not mean the body is becoming resistant to antibiotics; it means bacteria develop the ability to defeat the antibiotics designed to kill them. When bacteria become resistant, antibiotics cannot fight them, and the bacteria multiply. Some resistant bacteria can be hard or impossible to treat and can spread to other people.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 2.8 million antibiotic-resistant infections occur in the U.S. each year, and more than 35,000 people die as a result.
"When someone takes the time out of their day to go to the doctor, they want to walk out with a prescription that is going to make them feel better. But antibiotics are not always the answer," said Interim Director of Health Utpala Bandy, MD, MPH. "In fact, they can sometimes make things even worse. By taking antibiotics when not appropriate, people put themselves at risk for serious side effects while also undermining our ability to use antibiotics as a life-saving tool for future generations."
Public health officials throughout the country and worldwide are taking similar measures to educate the public this week, during Antibiotic Awareness Week November 18-24.
CDC and RIDOH encourage patients and families to:
- Get the facts about antibiotics. Antibiotics do not work on viruses, such as those that cause COVID-19, RSV, colds, flu, bronchitis, or runny noses, even if the mucus is thick, yellow, or green.
- Ask your doctor, nurse, or pharmacist about alternatives to antibiotics.
- While your body fights off a virus, pain relievers, fever reducers, saline nasal spray or drops, warm compresses, liquids, and rest can help you feel better.
- If you need antibiotics, take them exactly as prescribed. Talk with your doctor if you have any questions about your antibiotics.
- Do your best to stay healthy and keep others healthy by washing hands, covering coughs, staying home when sick, and getting recommended vaccines, such as the flu vaccine.
- Do not share prescription medications.
In addition to these action steps, talk with your healthcare provider if you develop any side effects from an antibiotic. Common side effects of antibiotics can include rash, dizziness, nausea, diarrhea, or yeast infections. It particularly important to talk to a healthcare provider if you experience severe diarrhea after taking an antibiotic. Severe diarrhea could be an indication of Clostridioides difficile (C. difficile or C. diff) infection, which needs to be treated. November is also C. Diff Awareness Month.
In addition to the impact on patient health, C. diff rates have a financial impact on hospitals under Medicare's Healthcare-Acquired Condition (HAC) Reduction and Value-Based Purchasing Programs. To help reduce these healthcare-acquired infections, RIDOH's Antimicrobial Stewardship and Environmental Cleaning Task Force has developed the CDI Playbook for Rhode Island healthcare providers and facilities.
More information and videos can be found at health.ri.gov/antibiotics and cdc.gov/antibiotic-use.