The excessive and incorrect use of antibiotics in this country is responsible for approximately 23,000 deaths as year – a figure the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is trying to reduce.
The CDC estimates that as many as ten million children a year are prescribed antibiotics for upper respiratory conditions, many of which are caused by viruses, which are not helped by antibiotics.
More harm than good
“Many people have the misconception that since antibiotics are commonly used that they are harmless,” says Dr. Lauri Hicks, coauthor of a new report and medical director of the CDC’s Get Smart: Know When Antibiotics Work program. “Taking antibiotics when you have a virus can do more harm than good.”
These harms can be in the form of antibiotic side effects or promoting the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which can then spread through a community.
This overuse of antibiotics, a significant factor fueling antibiotic resistance, is the focus of a new report, Principles of Judicious Antibiotic Prescribing for Bacterial Upper Respiratory Tract Infections in Pediatrics, by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) in collaboration with the CDC.
Released in conjunction with Get Smart About Antibiotics Week (now through Nov. 24th), the report amplifies recent AAP guidance and promotes responsible antibiotic prescribing for three common upper respiratory tract infections in children: ear infections, sinus infections, and sore throats.
Antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria evolve and are able to outsmart antibiotics, making even common infections difficult to treat. According to a landmark CDC report from September 2013, each year more than two million Americans get infections that are resistant to antibiotics and 23,000 die as a result.
“Our medicine cabinet is nearly empty of antibiotics to treat some infections,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. “If doctors prescribe antibiotics carefully and patients take them as prescribed we can preserve these lifesaving drugs and avoid entering a post-antibiotic era.”
When they work and when they don't
CDC promotes responsible antibiotic use to consumers and health care providers through the combined efforts of the Get Smart: Know When Antibiotics Work and Get Smart for Healthcare programs, as well as during Get Smart About Antibiotics Week (Nov. 18–24, 2013) each year. State health departments, non-profit partners, and for-profit partners all contribute to the observance week’s success by spreading the word about when antibiotics work — and when they don’t.
A Twitter chat on the topic will be held today, Friday, November 22 at 1 pm (EST). Follow the hashtag #CDCchat on Twitter and join in the conversation to talk with Dr. Frieden, CDC experts and other partners about your experiences with antibiotic resistance.
The 2013 observance of Get Smart About Antibiotics Week is an international collaboration that coincides with European Antibiotic Awareness Day, Australia's Antibiotic Awareness Week, and Canada's Antibiotic Awareness Week.