The World Health Organization (WHO) released a report on Wednesday stating that the "post-antibiotic" era is near. What does it mean?
In short, it means that an infection that doctors were able to successfully treat for decades can now kill the patient. This is a major global threat because data gathered from 114 member states showed extensive antibiotic resistance in all parts of the world. The main cause is the overuse of antibiotics — whether in agriculture, medicine or even our homes and offices.
What particularly worries scientists and doctors is the spread of resistance even to the most potent antibiotics like carbapenems, which are considered the antibiotics of last resort. The data are really alarming, which means that educating ourselves and taking action is much more important than ever before.
Thankfully, there are practical steps each of us can take to help fight antibiotic resistance. These choices will have positive effect not only on our own health, but also the health of people around us.
1. Don’t overuse antibacterial soaps, body washes and hand sanitizers.
Triclosan (found in liquid soaps) and triclocarban (found in bar soaps), which are the active ingredients in many antibacterial products, are seen as the major cause of antibacterial products’ adverse effects.
In my opinion, we don’t actually need antibacterial soaps and body washes. If you have access to water, a plain soap will be as effective as the antibacterial soap. Why even risk the possibility of having serious side effects?
Hand sanitizers have their place in life and can certainly be useful. But if you have access to water and soap (and have 30 seconds), choose that option over using a hand sanitizer.
Keep in mind that in order to wash your hands well, you need to scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds (which is the average duration of the "Happy Birthday" song), and you need to lather your hands, including the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails
Most people who overuse hand sanitizers have some kind of germ phobia. If that is the case for you, please realize that by overusing hand sanitizers and antibacterial soaps, you are actually creating "superbugs" that can be resistant even to the most potent antibiotics — now this is really scary.
2. Take antibiotics appropriately and only when needed.
Ask your doctor if you actually need antibiotics. Quite often antibiotics are overprescribed, so make sure you're not on the receiving end of this tendency. If prescribed unnecessarily, antibiotics won’t be helpful, and can be even harmful by driving drug resistance and causing other adverse side effects.
If you're in a country where you can purchase antibiotics over the counter, make sure you need the antibiotic before purchasing it.
Take antibiotics exactly the way your doctor prescribes them. Do not skip doses. Also, complete the course of treatment, even when you start feeling better.
Do not take antibiotics prescribed for someone else. Similarly, do not pass on to others the antibiotics that were prescribed for you. Keep in mind that antibiotics should be taken only if the infection is caused by bacteria. Moreover, the same antibiotic might be effective for one type of bacterial infection and not with another type.
Do not save antibiotics for future illnesses, and do not use the leftover antibiotics. If upon completion of the course of treatment you have leftover antibiotics, discard them.
3. Be mindful of the meat and poultry products you consume.
One source of antibiotics that many people are not aware of having is meat, poultry, eggs and dairy. This can be quite important, especially depending on the amounts ingested on a regular basis. You end up ingesting antibiotics when animals are given antibiotics, either to prevent or treat a disease, or if a period of antibiotic withdrawal does not pass before they slaughter the animal.
Make sure you buy meat, poultry, eggs and dairy products with labels indicating that the animals were raised without antibiotics.
Here is to your health and happiness!