Do You Need Antibiotics?

Antibiotic resistance is an urgent threat to public health. Resistance occurs when bacteria has become stronger than the medication used to kill the bacteria. Antibiotics save lives, but can cause side effects that lead to antibiotic resistance and impact gastrointestinal health. Annually in the United States, approximately 2 million people are infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria. There are at least 23,000 deaths that are caused by these bacteria. About 30% of antibiotics prescribed are unnecessary. Improving the way we take antibiotics helps keep us healthy and ensures that the medications will continue to be effective for future generations. Antibiotic resistance can potentially influence every stage of life (CDC, 2019).

When Antibiotics Are Needed

Antibiotics are only useful in treating infections that are caused by bacteria. They are useful for serious infections or high-risk situations like surgeries or patients receiving chemotherapy (CDC, 2019).

When Antibiotics Are Not Needed

Antibiotics will not work on viruses such as colds or the flu, even if the mucous is thick yellow or green in color. Antibiotics are only needed if there is a bacterial infection and even some of those infections will get better without antibiotics (CDC 2019).

There are common side effects to antibiotic use such as a rash, dizziness, nausea and diarrhea. A more serious side effect is C. difficile, which causes diarrhea and severe colon damage.

What Can You Do

If you do need to take, antibiotics take them exactly as prescribed! Talk with your healthcare professional if you have any questions. Consider alternatives if antibiotics are not indicated.

Respiratory viruses usually go away in a week or two, but can take longer. Clean your hands, cover your cough, stay home if you are sick and get recommended vaccines (CDC, 2019).


Blog Written By: Cheryl Droll, Infection Prevention/Clinical Education Coordinator



CDC (September, 2019). Be Antibiotics Aware: Smart Use, Best Care. Retrieved from

MDH (September, 2019). What You Can Do to Improve Antibiotic Use. Retrieved from

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