Used carefully, these drugs will still be there and effective when we need them. Antibiotics save millions of lives, but excessive and inappropriate use has allowed some bacteria to mutate (change their genes) and become resistant to our most powerful antibiotics. We’re using 5% more than just five years ago, although use in animals has reached its lowest ever level. With few new antibiotics in the pipeline, resistance could leave us unprotected, cause 10 million deaths annually, worldwide, by 2050 and reduce our life expectancies by more than a year, according to new UK statistics. So, we all need to be careful about taking/ prescribing them and internationally, we need better health/hygiene education, prescribing policies and infection control particularly for diabetics.
The good and bad Harmful bacteria that enter our bodies are usually destroyed by our immune systems, but sometimes we need antibiotics too. These either kill bacteria (by damaging their protective cell walls) or immobilise them so the immune system can finish them off. But if they’re taken wrongly or are only partly effective, bacteria can fight back and become resistant ‘superbugs’ for example MRSA (methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus), Clostridium difficile and some strains of TB.
Antibiotics can also have side-effects, including skin rashes, diarrhoea, liver damage and anaphylaxis life-threatening mouth swelling, breathing difficulty and potential collapse. They may also allow yeasts, such as thrush, to flourish, or affect other medicines, such as the oral contraceptive pill and blood-thinning drugs. When we need them.
Most people know that antibiotics can’t cure colds, but NICE, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, recently said that they shouldn’t be used routinely for sinusitis (congestion, facial pain, green catarrh) or ear infections (painful blockage without a discharge). Most coughs, even with green phlegm, will get better without them, but see your GP if you have a high temperature, chest pain, laboured breathing, cough up blood, or your symptoms last more than three weeks.
You may be prescribed antibiotics if you also have chronic heart, lung, kidney or liver disease, or a condition or medicines that lower your immunity. Frequent urination/burning often settles in 48 hours with painkillers and extra drinks, but will need antibiotics if it persists, or you see blood or have back pain, vomiting or fever. Skin redness, pain, swelling or abscesses can appear unexpectedly, or follow an injury or surgery. You’ll need an antibiotic if it’s severe, spreads, produces a lot of pus or discharge or you’re feverish or unwell. Most all-over infectious skin rashes are viral, but infected eczema needs antibiotics.
Sepsis is a life-threatening generalised infection with severe shivering, muscle pain, headache, breathlessness, high or very low temperature, reduced urine production, cold, mottled, blue or discoloured skin, confusion, drowsiness, convulsions (fits), faintness and/or a rash that doesn’t disappear when pressed on with a glass. It’s an emergency, requiring intravenous antibiotics and intensive care.
GPs are researching whether blood tests could indicate when antibiotics are needed. Computerised checklists are increasingly used, too; swabs (samples) can indicate which antibiotic will work best.
6 Ways to take Antibiotics Safely.
1. If you’ve had an antibiotic allergy, check that they don’t contain anything similar.
2. Read the label/leaflet about how to take them (for example, with food). Spread doses evenly over 24 hours.
3. If you’ve been given a ‘deferred’ prescription – in case things persist or get worse, make sure you know when to start taking them.
4. Finish the course. Don’t share them with others, or self-treat another illness with them.
5. Know how to recognise if they’re not working as expected and what to do.
6. Speak to your doctor if you develop side effects or if you suspect anaphylaxis.
E252 – Antibiotics: The Latest Advice for Diabetics – www.diabetic.today