Antibiotic Awareness

As published in La Fiamma, L’Angolo Della Terza Eta  18/11/13

Anna was prescribed antibiotics for a chest infection. The medicine made her feel queasy in the stomach. After a few days she stopped coughing and decided she no longer needed the medication. A few weeks later she started coughing again, worse than before.

This week, 18-24 November 2013, is Antibiotic Awareness Week. This is part of a global initiative to raise awareness of antibiotic resistance and promote the responsible use of antibiotics.

What is antibiotic resistance?

The development of antibiotics revolutionised medicine at the beginning of last century. Conditions such as bacterial wound infections and tuberculosis became treatable, saving millions of lives. But overuse and misuse of antibiotics means that they are becoming less effective. This is called antibiotic resistence.

Australians are amongst some of the highest users of antibiotics in the developed world. Every time we take antibiotics unnecessarily or incorrectly, we encourage the development of dangerous antibiotic-resistant bacteria and contribute to the spread of superbugs in the community. It is important that we all know how to use antibiotics appropriately.

Antibiotics treat only certain types of diseases and if taken when there is no real need for them, this may result in them becoming less effective when they are really needed.

In Australia, only doctors can prescribe antibiotics. Sometimes patients demand antibiotics when they are not necessary.

Do I need an antibiotic?

Antibiotics are ineffective against viruses that cause the common cold or flu. However, some older people, and those who have chronic (ongoing) health conditions, are more likely to develop complications such as pneumonia and may need antibiotics.
You may be prescribed an antibiotic when you have a respiratory tract infection (cold or flu) if you: are over the age of 55 and have health problems, are a current or past smoker, have a lung problem like asthma or emphysema, have cystic fibrosis, have a long- term health condition such as diabetes or heart problems, have a weakened immune system, have a disease that affects your breathing such as muscular dystrophy or multiple sclerosis.

What to do if you are prescribed an antibiotic.                           

If you, or someone you care for, are prescribed an antibiotic, make sure you know how long you need to take it for-  if this is not clear from the pharmacy label, ask your doctor or pharmacist. Always take the antibiotics for as long as your health professional instructs. Always follow the instructions and complete the treatment even if you feel better. Don’t take left over antibiotics or any that weren’t prescribed for you.

When to see a doctor.                                                             

Older people and those with chronic conditions should see a doctor for their respiratory infection if they: have a flare- up of an ongoing lung problem such as asthma, have trouble breathing, have symptoms that don’t improve or that get worse, develop a high fever, chills, chest pain, or lower than normal body temperature (below 36 degrees celcius), feel like the infection has moved lower down in the chest or a cough gets worse.

Preventing the spreads of colds and flu.                            

There are things that you can do to protect yourself and others: avoid contact with people who have a cold or flu, use tissues to blow your nose, and throw them away after use, cover your mouth when sneezing or coughing, keep your hands away from your eyes, nose and mouth, wash your hands after sneezing, coughing or blowing your nose.

For more information about safe and effective use of prescription medication, please contact Francesco Mendolicchio, the Alcohol and Other Drug Program Officer at Co.As.It on  9564 0744.

 Antibiotic Awareness in Italian