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Be Antibiotics Aware – Things You Should Know About Antibiotics


This is a post prepared under a contract funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and written on behalf of the Mom It Forward Influencer Network for use in CDC’s Be Antibiotics Aware educational effort. Opinions on this blog are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views of CDC.

Several years ago, my brother wasn’t feeling well, so he started taking some antibiotics he had left over from a previous prescription. He was young and assumed antibiotics worked for everything, but after taking them for a few days and not feeling any better, he decided to visit his healthcare professional. My brother learned that the antibiotics he was taking didn’t make him feel better because he had a virus and antibiotics only treat infections caused by bacteria.

It’s true antibiotics save lives, but did you know that in doctors’ offices and emergency departments in the United States about 47 million unnecessary antibiotic prescriptions are written each year? This means we all should seriously put a little more focus on learning as much as possible about antibiotics and help improve antibiotic prescribing and use.

Antibiotics can be life-saving, but they should only be used when they are absolutely necessary. Did you know that each year in the United States, there are enough antibiotic prescriptions written in outpatient settings to give five out of every six people one antibiotic prescription each year?

About 30 percent of antibiotics are prescribed unnecessarily in doctors’ offices and emergency departments in the United States.

To make things worse, about 50 percent of all antibiotics in U.S. outpatient settings are prescribed incorrectly. Yes, that means the wrong antibiotic, at the wrong dose, for the wrong length of time, or at the wrong time.

Be Antibiotics Aware - Things You Should Know About Antibiotics

Education is the first step to being antibiotics aware. Here are a few things you should know about antibiotics.

What antibiotics treat and what they don’t treat

Did you know that antibiotics don’t work on viruses that often cause cold and flu, bronchitis, or runny noses, even if you notice that the mucus is thick, yellow, or green? If you or a family member has a virus, an antibiotic will not make you feel better. As a matter of fact, respiratory viruses typically go away in a week or two without treatment. Ask your healthcare professional about the best way to feel better while your body fights off the virus.

Be Antibiotics Aware - Things You Should Know About Antibiotics 1

Like my brother, many people start feeling bad and reach for leftover antibiotics, but it’s important to know you should never save antibiotics for the next time you become sick or take antibiotics prescribed for someone else. In fact, you shouldn’t even have leftover antibiotics. If you need antibiotics, take them exactly as prescribed.

Antibiotics are critical tools for treating people with serious and life-threatening conditions like pneumonia and sepsis, the body’s extreme response to an infection.

Antibiotics don’t work for every infection

Antibiotics are only needed for treating certain infections caused by bacteria, but even some bacterial infections get better without antibiotics. Antibiotics also aren’t needed for some common bacterial infections, including many sinus infections and some ear infections.

Be Antibiotics Aware - Things You Should Know About Antibiotics 2

Antibiotic resistance is a real concern

Did you know that antibiotic resistance is one of the most urgent threats to the public’s health? Each year in the United States, at least 2 million people get infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria. At least 23,000 people die as a result. Antibiotic resistance does not mean the body is becoming resistant to antibiotics; it means that bacteria develop the ability to defeat the antibiotics designed to kill them.

Antibiotics’ side effects

It’s easy to assume antibiotics are safe, but any time we use antibiotics they can cause side effects and can lead to antibiotic resistance.

When antibiotics aren’t needed, they won’t help you, and the side effects could still hurt you. Side effects range from minor to severe health problems such as a rash or Clostridioides difficile infection (also called C. difficile or C. diff). When you need antibiotics for an infection, then the benefits of the drug usually outweigh the risk of side effects.

There are things you can do to feel better without antibiotics

If antibiotics are not needed, there are several things you can do to feel better, such as:

  • Get plenty of rest.
  • Use a humidifier.
  • Don’t smoke.
  • Avoid secondhand smoke.
  • Avoid airborne chemicals or irritants.
  • Use saline nasal spray or drops.
  • If needed, take acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or naproxen to help with the pain and fever. Before taking anything, be sure to talk with your healthcare professional to make sure you’re taking the correct medication.

You can find other things you or your family member can do to relieve some symptoms on the CDC website.

Do your best to stay healthy

Stay healthy and keep others healthy by cleaning hands, covering coughs, staying home when sick, and getting recommended vaccines—for the flu, for example.

(Antibiotics Aren’t Always the Answer Video: https://youtu.be/XM0EYKfUxkc)

Improving the way we take antibiotics helps keep us healthy now, helps fight antibiotic resistance, and ensures that life-saving antibiotics will be available for future generations.

To learn more about antibiotic prescribing and use, visit www.cdc.gov/antibiotic-use.

To learn more about sepsis, a life-threatening condition that is treated with antibiotics, visit www.cdc.gov/sepsis.


I have a smart mouth, don't sit still well, extremely opinionated, have a lot to say, work hard, love lots, don't have time for drama, or negativity. I love animals, & my job as a New Mexico mom blogger! I love sharing travel adventures, tech gadgets, recipes, parenting struggles (success), crafts, helpful tips, giveaways and sweepstakes, product reviews, and more.  I have amazing 4 children, and have an amazing boyfriend. On my downtime, you'll find me spending time with my family, traveling, cooking, geeking out on tech, plotting the next home improvement, create crafts with the kids, and riding my horses We are plotting our move to greener pastures, with trees, and stuff. Connect with me on Google + Page.

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  1. eliza July 21, 2018
    Very informative. Its not that I don't like antibiotic, but I don't promote as possible. If there are ways that can be used even alternative at times, I go for it.
  2. Jojo Hua July 19, 2018
    I agree with all of this. This is why I avoid taking medication unless I really have to. And I always ensure I finish a course of antibiotics if I'm prescribed any.
  3. Nicole July 19, 2018
    This is a very informative and great post! I knew that antibiotics are usually not necessary for most common illnesses. I'll definitely pass this along. Thanks for sharing!
  4. Aseky Bonnaire July 18, 2018
    these are all good things to know about antibiotics! A lot of times people just assume antibiotics can fix any and everything!
  5. Ann Snook July 18, 2018
    I'm always surprised that lots of people don't know that antibiotics don't treat viruses! I just generally don't like taking medicine but I'm still scared of antibiotic immunity.
  6. Holly Lasha July 18, 2018
    Great suggestions. Oh so helpful!. Thank you for outlining this in such a comprehensive way.
  7. Valerie Durias July 18, 2018
    I learned so much from this post. Thanks a lot! I've been hearing a lot about this issue but I've never really read something that contains the information for it.
  8. GiGi Eats Celebrities July 18, 2018
    I don't take antibiotics - ever. And I never will. Now if and when I have kids, I might have to listen to the doctor when he or she gets sick, but not until AFTER I do my own research.
  9. Kansas Bonanno July 18, 2018
    Great post, its so important to use the antibiotics for exactly what they are for.
  10. Geraline Batarra July 18, 2018
    Wow, this is such a great post, very interesting topic and very informative. I am glad that you are able to tackle this matter and put an awareness to everyone about this. Thank you for sharing this with us.
  11. Preet July 18, 2018
    I never heard about this before. This is so informative about antibiotics. Glad I was able to read this .

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