Super smartness in the world of health care is always a goal. This week is Get Smart About Antibiotics Week, an annual observance to raise awareness of the threat of antibiotic resistance and the importance of appropriate antibiotic prescribing and use. This isn’t just about NOT begging for antibiotics when our children have a runny nose and this isn’t just about docs and nurses being smarter about using antibiotics only when we need them. If we want antibiotics to be around and useful for generations to come, this will take a multi-prong approach.

Antibiotic resistance — “the rise of deadly germs no longer stopped by the drugs that once controlled them” — will only increase over time if we use continue to use antibiotics at our current pace. At home, in raising the food we eat, and in health care organizations.

Each year in the United States, at least 2 million people become infected with bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics. That means their infections aren’t easily treated, can grow and spread in their bodies without cure and can potentially cause serious harm. Those bacteria can also spread to others. At least 23,000 people die as a direct result of these infections every year. So this stuff matters. What soap we use, what medicines we avoid, what medicines we use, what food we eat and how it’s raised all change the game. I’ll be doing a series of short posts each day this week to share what I’ve learned about the negative effects of antibiotics overuse.

Modern medicine is built on the back of life-saving antibiotics.  If these agents were to lose their therapeutic power, we would be left with a health care system that we would not recognize or even comprehend.  Not only would we lose the power to save lives with chemotherapy and bone marrow transplant, we would be unable to restore function and hope with cardiac bypass surgery and joint replacements.  We could even lose the ability to treat what have become routine infections of the skin and bones in pediatric patients.  Preserving these agents requires a dramatic re-assessment of our behaviors and habits – both as patients, parents and physicians responding to illness, but also as consumers and citizens concerned about food production. ~Dr. Scott Weissman, Pediatric Infectious Disease Expert

Antibiotics are among the most commonly prescribed drugs used in human medicine and kill both good and bad bacteria on and in our bodies. Potentially the most shocking statistic I can share is that up to 50% of all the antibiotics prescribed for people are not needed or are not optimally effective as prescribed. Lots of people working to change this, but this week is about helping frame up the truth that you can too.

PAAAALEEEEEASSE leave any questions you have. With the help of Dr Weissman, I’ll do my best to get them answered & provide good sources of information you can read this week.

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Image c/o the CDC