Down with an annoying infection again? Sleeping down the fever and diarrhea? Well, must ask a friend to run to the nearest chemists’ and grab you some antibiotics, right?
Antibiotics can be dangerous if taken indiscriminately. They can have repercussions. Not just on your health, but for the entire humankind – because, thousands of people reach for these drugs for every small infection. Just like you.
Never thought antibiotic-overuse could pose atrocious levels of problems? Read on, find out for yourself.
What are antibiotics?
Antibiotics are – as every ninth grade biology textbook says – chemicals produced by certain micro-organisms, that either kill or stop the growth of certain bacteria. (This is, however, the conventional definition. A lot of antibiotics are being synthesized in the lab these days.)
Their use in bacterial infections is mainly targeted at killing the bacteria that have caused an infection.
Some commonly prescribed antibiotics are: Ciplox, Azithral, Augmentin, Norflox, etc.
When to be prescribed?
- Antibiotics are mostly advised against bacterial infections. They do not act in case of viral infections.
- Ideally, your physician should administer these drugs only after he has examined you thoroughly, ordered blood/ stool/ urine/ other tests and the tests are:
- POSITIVE for the presence of bacteria.
- Informative with regard to the TYPES of bacteria and their properties.
- Informative about all the drugs to which the bacteria will respond, and the ones to which they are resistant.
- A doctor may also give antibiotics as a preventive measure against certain infections. This is if you are highly likely to get the infection because of various factors like local outbreaks, family history, history of previous infections, etc.
What happens if you use them indiscriminately?
Antibiotic resistance exemplifies survival-friendly mutations.
Survival-friendly for the infectious bacteria, obviously. This can only be so good for humans.
In a bacterial population, most cells harbor similar properties which make them susceptible to killing by our antibiotic – of – choice. However, there are inevitably some cells with altered properties, resistant to the drug. Its administration also creates a stress environment for the sensitive bacteria, leading to mutations. These mutations favor resistance. The drug kills the sensitive cells. However, the resistant cells survive and start dividing. Soon the entire population is composed of only resistant cells.
(If you had to scrounge for words you actually understood in that, pardon me. Two years into med school, one tends to forget such seemingly important things as normal English words)
These antibiotics sometimes also happen to act against the “good bacteria” in the human body. This adds on to the already existing disease, problems like diarrhea and malnutrition.
Thus, over-enthusiastic consumption is a threat since:
- It leads to antibiotic failure, and the person continues to suffer the infection.
- It increases the pressure to discover newer antibiotics that would be effective against such bacteria.
- The disparity between the demand and supply (like for every other resource) is a cause for major concern. It won’t be long before the resistant bacteria get the better of us!
How to ensure efficient treatment?
- Do not self – prescribe antibiotics.
Different infections are caused by different bacteria, susceptible to different antibiotics. Every case is different. Let your consultant and his team figure out how to deal with yours.
- Do not pop those pills for every leaky nose and cough.
- Do not panic if it is just a little fever or some loose stools.
The human body is wonderfully self-sufficient in fighting minor infections off, thank you very much. Let nature take its course. All that said, go to your clinician if the symptoms don’t ebb in one or two days.
- Follow the dose regime as prescribed by the doctor.
- Do not discontinue the course in between.
- Have faith in your doctor.
Sometimes, the infection may be fierce and in such cases the drug may take time to take effect. Stick to your regime. Do not skip pills or jump doctors!
So, next time you impatiently reach for those antibiotics without a prescription, stop yourself. Reflect upon it. Contemplate.
Which is but another way of saying, “DO NOT”.