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updated: 11/7/2012 12:06 PM

'Get Smart About Antibiotics' and be smart about health

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David Hass

DUPAGE COUNTY--November 12-18 is "Get Smart About Antibiotics Week" and the DuPage County Health Department is encouraging residents to learn about the proper use of antibiotics to keep their families healthy.

"Get Smart About Antibiotics Week" is an annual campaign coordinated by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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Each year, millions of Americans take antibiotics to fight infections. But overuse and misuse of antibiotics can change germs, allowing them to evolve resistance to antibiotics, which increases the risk of an infection for which there are limited or no treatment options. Patients who receive antibiotics can experience side effects, including allergic reactions and may be at increased risk for Clostridium difficile infection, a potentially deadly diarrheal infection.

People may expect antibiotics to work for every illness, but they don't. The improper use of antibiotics may allow resistant bacteria to quickly spread through a community, introducing a new strain of infectious disease that is more difficult to cure and more expensive to treat. Taking antibiotics when they are not needed increases your risk of getting an infection later that resists antibiotic treatment.

Antibiotics will not cure viral infections such as:

Colds or flu

Sore throats not caused by strep

Runny noses

What you can do to protect yourself or your child:

Talk with your healthcare provider about antibiotic resistance.

When you are prescribed an antibiotic take it exactly as the doctor tells you. Complete the prescribed course even if you are feeling better. If treatment stops too soon, some bacteria may survive and re-infect you. This goes for children, too.

Wash your hands often (e.g., before meals and after touching pets).

Keep you and your child current with recommended immunizations.

To feel better when you have an upper respiratory infection and antibiotics are not needed:

 Increase fluid intake.

 Get plenty of rest.

 Use a cool mist vaporizer or saline nasal spray to relieve congestion.

 Soothe throat with ice chips, sore throat spray, or lozenges (do not give lozenges to young children).

Properly dispose of any leftover medication once you have completed your prescription.

Remember these facts:

Antibiotic resistance is one of the world's most pressing public health threats.

Antibiotics are the most important tool we have to combat life-threatening bacterial diseases. Increased antibiotic resistance is compromising the effectiveness of antibiotics.

Patients, healthcare providers, hospital administrators, and policy makers must work together to employ effective strategies for improving appropriate antibiotic use and ultimately saving lives.

More information about appropriate antibiotic use and antibiotic resistance is available at www.cdc.gov/getsmart/.

For more information on the DuPage County Health Department, follow us on Twitter @DuPageHD or become a fan on Facebook.

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