Do Bugs Always Need Drugs?


It’s flu season and the line up in the pharmacy for antibiotics is getting long.  We all would like a quick recovery and end the misery of lethargy, runny nose and cough by popping a pill.   Antibiotic use is; therefore, becoming more common, even in viruses induced illnesses such as a cold or the flu.  But is antibiotics the correct way to go when it kills bacteria not viruses?   Using antibiotics too often, which does not even help viral infection anyways, can lead to antibiotic resistance.  Bacteria resistance to antibiotics can happen naturally and on it’s own, although frequent use of antibiotics can increase its chance.  Bacteria gets accustomed to the exposure of antibiotics in its surroundings and it can mutate or learn to build an immunity against it.  Doctors are running out of options worldwide in finding treatment for serious diseases, like pneumonia or skin and gastrointestinal infection caused by superbugs such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and  Vancomycin resistance Enterococci (VRE).  Sometimes these superbugs are not only resistant to one but multiple kind of antibiotics.

Fortunately, there is something you can do to prevent bacteria resistance to antibiotics.   Antibiotics should only be used when they are prescribed to you by your doctor; when he or she can confirm with testing or has reasonable suspicion that your illness will be beneficial to the use of antibiotics.  Finishing the entire amount of the prescription is vital and never share antibiotics with anyone.   Washing and sanitizing hands sounds awfully simple but it is very effective in preventing the spread of bacteria.  Cough and sneeze into your sleeves or tissues and not your hands.  Avoiding touching moist areas of your face such as the mouth, eyes, and nose because it is an easy entry for microorganisms into your body.    

Please don’t be disappointed when your dentist did not give you a prescription of antibiotics.  From a dental perspective, clean wound related to trauma on a healthy individual may not need to be treated by antibiotics.   If a child has acute pain because of cavity infecting the nerve of the tooth, providing immediate treatment for the offending tooth (ie, pulpotomy, pulpectomy, or extraction) would be better than taking antibiotics.   Antibiotic therapy usually is not needed if the dental infection is contained within the immediate surrounding tissue and the child does not show signs of a spreading infection.  Antibiotic use should be reserved for a child who is suffering from high fever, facial swelling or a child who is immunocompromised.