Antibiotics: A Double-Edged Sword
Too much of a good thing will quickly become a very bad thing, if we don’t put a stop to it.
Antibiotic medications (the most famous example being penicillin) are prescribed by doctors as an effective way to combat infections by killing harmful bacterial organisms in our bodies. Antibacterial household products (like hand soap) offer a topical way to achieve the same result with surface bacteria on the skin. But both can produce a higher risk of future infections.
A caveat, if you’ll indulge me:
The proliferation of drug-resistant bacteria has become a very serious health issue worldwide, and I feel that the need for a solution is so crucial that I don’t mince words in my exhortations to the reader to take action.
Whether you’re already aware of this problem, or you’re reading about it here for the first time, I hope you’ll take the intensity of my words not as a personal criticism, but as an attempt to convey the urgency of our common situation.
Antibiotics are appropriate only in treating bacterial infections. If you have a virus, antibiotics won’t do you any good! You’ll just be wasting money. Not your money, you say? OK, then how about this: every time an antibiotic is used, the bacteria it’s designed to combat has an opportunity to mutate to resist the medication, which will eventually become useless. This can happen well within your lifetime, when you might really need that antibiotic. In fact, super-resistant strains of bacteria have already appeared.
Don’t believe me? Check out these authorities:
- Newsweek – Are We Running Out of Antibiotics?
- Mayo Clinic – Antibiotics: Misuse puts you and others at risk
- Dr. Greene – Antibiotic Overuse
- About.com: Pediatrics – Where are my antibiotics?
- KidsHealth – The Danger of Antibiotic Overuse
- Medical News Today – Overuse Of Antibiotics May Make More Bacteria Drug-resistant
- CBS News – Silent Killers: Scary Superbugs
- Wikipedia – Antibiotic misuse
Please, please, don’t insist on getting antibiotics if your doctor doesn’t recommend them! Doctors go through long, expensive, rigorous training to enter their chosen profession. They may not be omniscient, but they’re a darn sight better informed about health and medical issues than the average person. Medicine is not for dilettantes. Those of us who are not in the medical profession (i.e., most people) are not qualified to decide whether antibiotics are the best treatment for our current ailment, or even a valid treatment at all. We’ll all pay for the misuse of antibiotics with poorer health and higher premiums to fund the search for more effective remedies.
This might also be a problem with household products like antibacterial soap. And it turns out that ordinary soap is just as effective as antibacterial soap in eliminating harmful organisms.
See Discovery Health – Should antibacterial soap be outlawed?
Don’t let this disaster happen! Use antibiotics only when directed by your doctor, and be sure to take the entire prescription. Ask your friends, family and coworkers to stop using antibacterial products, and to trust their doctor’s judgement about the need for antibiotics.