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Inside Pediatrics Podcast

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (Nov.21, 2022) —Antibiotic Awareness Week runs from Nov. 18 to Nov. 24 every year. The World Health Organization sponsors and organizes this week to raise awareness globally about the problem of antibiotic resistance.  Antimicrobial resistance develops when bacteria change and adapt to antibiotics over time. This makes it harder to treat infections.

Dr. Shannon Ross, an infectious disease physician at Children’s of Alabama, says that over the past several decades, bacteria have become resistant to many antibiotics commonly prescribed.

“When we overuse antibiotics, we use them inappropriately when they are not needed; this actually drives the problem of antibiotic resistance,” said Ross. “So, if we are very careful about our use of antibiotics, only use them when absolutely necessary, when it is indicated, we can help slow that process down.”

Ross says antibiotics are used to treat bacterial infections. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, bacteria are germs inside and outside our bodies. Most of the germs are harmless and can be helpful, but some can cause infections like strep throat.  Ross says that most of the time when children are sick, they have a viral infection. In those cases, an antibiotic prescription is not needed.

“I always tell parents it’s okay to ask questions about the treatment, but we never want to pressure a physician into giving an antibiotic,” said Ross. “We really want to have antibiotics to use when we absolutely need them, and if resistance becomes more and more of a problem, we have fewer and fewer options, so it’s important that we really preserve these antibiotics for use when they are absolutely necessary.”

Ross says patients also need to take an antibiotic as prescribed. She cautions that if you miss doses or shorten the course early, this can also contribute to resistance and make a patient’s illness last longer.

“We have a set amount of time that we treat infections for a reason. We know how long particular infections need to be treated, so if you stop it early, then the infection may smolder or come back,” said Ross.

There are some steps you can take to avoid getting yourself and others sick such as staying home when you are sick, washing your hands and getting the recommended vaccines, such as the flu vaccine.