For thousands of years, we have used antibiotics from natural molds and plant extracts to heal wounds and treat infections, although it wasn’t until recent times that we finally worked out what was causing these infections. The rise of modern antibiotics has been a game changer. The discovery of Penicillin saved thousands of lives during WW2.
Today, however, we are facing an uncertain future, with many scientists concerned that overuse of antibiotics has led to resistance and the rise of so-called ‘superbugs.’ As a result, some people are worried that using antibiotics is harmful to their health. In this article, we are going to bust some of the biggest myths surrounding antibiotic use. Then you can make a more informed decision before you use (or don’t use) antibiotics.
1. Antibiotics Always Work
There is a common misconception that once a doctor prescribes antibiotics, you will soon be on the mend. Sadly, that isn’t true. Overuse of antibiotics has led to resistance, so taking a course of antibiotics to kill an infection isn’t necessarily a cure. Even if you follow your doctor’s instructions to the letter, you might still have symptoms once the course is completed. If this happens, go straight back to the doctor. Many strains of bacteria are resistant to commonly prescribed antibiotics such as Penicillin. If your infection is resistant, you will need to try an alternative antibiotic.
2. Antibiotics Can Cure the Flu
Antibiotics are very effective if you have a bacterial infection. They can also kill some strains of fungi and parasites, but if you’re suffering from a nasty case of the flu, as it is a virus and antibiotics are useless against viruses. When you have the flu, there isn’t much you can do other than rest and wait for the symptoms to subside. However, if your flu worsens and you develop bacterial pneumonia or a similar infection, antibiotics are called for.
3. Animal Antibiotics are Dangerous
Antibiotic resistance in animals is just as much a problem as it is in humans. Farmers administer antibiotics to their livestock to reduce the level of bacteria in meat. As we all know, bacteria in raw meat can cause all manner of dangerous infections and illnesses, and if your kitchen hygiene is lacking, bacterial contamination can easily spread to other foods. There are some farming activists and campaigners who are concerned about the effects of antibiotics on human health. They believe that the overuse of antibiotics in farm animals has led to drug resistance and antibiotic residue in meat destined for human consumption. This is a myth. Responsible use of antibiotics in modern farming is saving lives, not endangering them. The biggest threat to human health is the irresponsible use and over-prescribing of antibiotics.
4. Any Antibiotic Will Do
Because antibiotic resistance is a big issue, it’s always better to run some lab tests to check the efficacy of the most commonly used antibiotics against your particular infection. That way, you can target the infection with an antibiotic that’s guaranteed to be effective.
It’s too late to prevent antibiotic resistance, but all is not lost. We still have some newer antibiotics in our medical arsenal, so by using them responsibly, you can ensure the next generation will benefit just as much as us.