Do You Need Antibiotics? What to Know About Uses and Resistance

Health Information Lifestyle


Q: I was prescribed a yearlong course of antibiotics to prevent recurrent urinary tract infections. Should I be worried about antimicrobial resistance?

Whenever you take antibiotics, no matter the dose or duration, there is a risk of developing resistance, said Dr. Sarah Kabbani, a public health physician at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Antibiotics work by killing bacteria in your body. But some bacteria will survive and thrive, which can make future infections more difficult to treat. This result, called antimicrobial resistance, is responsible for more than 35,000 deaths in the United States each year.

While antibiotics are necessary for serious, life-threatening infections, they’re sometimes prescribed for less urgent situations. Here’s how to tell if an antibiotic is right for you.

The most important question to discuss with your doctor before taking an antibiotic is: Do I really need it?

It’s very possible that you don’t, said Dr. Bradley Langford, a pharmacist specializing in antimicrobial resistance at Public Health Ontario in Toronto. According to the C.D.C., at least 28 percent of antibiotics prescribed in outpatient settings like doctors’ offices and emergency departments are unnecessary.

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