Antibiotics save lives, but their overuse and misuse can put patients at unnecessary risk for preventable allergic reactions and drug-resistant infections.
FirstHealth of the Carolinas will join other health care networks and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Nov. 18-24 to take part in Antibiotic Awareness Week. The annual observance puts a special focus on appropriate antibiotic use to combat the threat of antibiotic resistance.
As always, FirstHealth takes a patient-focused approach to ensure safe antibiotic use across our hospitals and clinics. Heather Gibson, PharmD, the Antimicrobial Stewardship Pharmacist at Moore Regional Hospital, says unnecessary use of antibiotics can lead to serious side effects and antibiotic resistance, one of the most urgent threats to the public’s health.
“If antibiotic resistance happens, the next time a patient comes into the hospital, our current antibiotics may not work on the bacteria. Overuse can occur not only when we use antibiotics for viral illnesses, but also when we use a broad-spectrum antibiotic to treat an infection that could be treated with a narrower one,” Gibson said.
Recently, FirstHealth’s four hospitals – Moore Regional Hospital, Moore Regional Hospital – Richmond, Moore Regional Hospital – Hoke and Montgomery Memorial Hospital – were all awarded champion status for antimicrobial stewardship by the North Carolina Department of Public Health.
The honor requires each facility to be reviewed by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services to ensure that its stewardship program meets high standards. FirstHealth’s hospitals are among eight across the entire state to achieve champion status.
According to the CDC, at least 2 million Americans are infected each year with antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
Jolena Allred, DNP, FBP-BC, echoed Gibson’s thoughts and said that awareness about proper antibiotic use helps both providers and patients.
“It’s quite simple when you step back and think about it. Antibiotics are for fighting bacteria,” she said. “Viruses like the flu or common cold will not improve with the use of an antibiotic. In fact, there are certain upper respiratory tract illnesses, like acute bronchitis and acute sinusitis, that have a viral cause and should not receive antibiotics. Any time an antibiotic is used, there is a possibility of it leading to resistance, one of the most urgent threats to our public health.”
During U.S. Antibiotic Awareness Week and throughout the year, CDC works to educate the public about when antibiotics are needed, when they are not, how to take antibiotics appropriately, and potential side effects of antibiotics.
CDC encourages patients and families to:
- Get the facts about antibiotics. Antibiotics do not work on viruses, such as those that cause colds, flu, bronchitis, or runny noses, even if the mucus is thick, yellow or green. When antibiotics aren’t needed, they won’t help you, and the side effects could still hurt you.
- Ask your provider, nurse or pharmacist about the best way to feel better.
- While your body fights off a virus, pain relievers, fever reducers, saline nasal spray or drops, warm compresses, liquids and rest can help you feel better.
- If you need antibiotics, take them exactly as prescribed. Talk to your provider if you have any questions about your antibiotics.
- Talk with your provider if you develop any side effects, especially severe diarrhea, since that could be a Clostridioides difficile (C. difficile or C. diff) infection, which needs to be treated.
- Do your best to stay healthy and keep others healthy by cleaning hands, covering coughs, staying home when sick and getting recommended vaccines, such as the flu vaccine.