According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, each year in the United States, at least 2 million people become infected with bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics. At least 23,000 people die each year as a direct result of these infections. Many more people die from other conditions that were complicated by an antibiotic-resistant infection.

According to the Review on Antimicrobial Resistance, these superbugs could kill one person every three seconds by 2050, the equivalent of 10 million people a year.

Who’s at Risk?

Antibiotic-resistant infections can happen anywhere. Data shows that most happen in the general community. However, most deaths related to antibiotic resistance happen in healthcare settings, such as hospitals and nursing homes. The more antibiotics you take, the greater your risk for becoming resistant to them.

Antibiotic/antimicrobial resistance is the ability of microbes to resist the effects of drugs — so they do not kill the germs or stop their growth. Although some people are at greater risk than others, no one can completely avoid the possibility of antibiotic-resistant infections. Infections with resistant organisms are difficult to treat, requiring costly and sometimes toxic alternatives.

Bacteria will inevitably find ways of resisting the antibiotics developed by humans, which is why specific action is needed now to keep new resistance from developing and to prevent the resistance that already exists from spreading.

Unfounded Fears

While there is certainly a cause for concern in developing antibiotic resistance, the problem also stems from phobias and/or ignorance in understanding the proper use of antibiotics. Individuals who are fearful of taking antibiotics will often stop using their prescribed dosage too soon. This is of great detriment in the fight against antibiotic resistance – allowing the remaining bacteria to overcome the antibiotics that have already been administered. Eradicating the bacteria, by taking an antibiotic that is correctly prescribed, will not lead to antibiotic resistance so finish the dosage prescribed by your doctor.

What Can You Do?

Don’t worry — it’s not all doom and gloom. There’s a lot you can do to protect yourself and your loved ones from antibiotic-resistant infections.

For starters, take antibiotics only as directed by your doctor. Don’t demand antibiotics to treat a common cold, flu, most sore throats or bronchitis. Antibiotics will not cure these kinds of infections but could put you at risk for antibiotic resistance.

Do everything you can to support your immunity and avoid getting sick. Eat healthy foods packed with vitamins and get regular exercise. Wash your hands often. This simple routine can go a long way in the fight against antibiotic resistance.

Take your probiotics. Probiotics are found in fermented foods and cultured milk products. They are the “good” bacteria that help maintain the natural balance of microflora in the intestines. Probiotics have been found to have a positive effect on the digestive system and your overall health.

Trust your doctor. There are situations where antibiotics are absolutely needed. They are often the best line of defense against attacking bacterial infection, when prescribed and used correctly. Resistance is due to overuse and misuse of antibiotics.

Take Antibiotics as Prescribed

Watch this video from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to learn more about when antibiotics are needed, how to use them appropriately and how you can help stop antibiotic resistance in its tracks.

While you may be tempted to stop taking your medicine as soon as you feel better, ending your treatment early can also cause unwanted resistance.

When you use antibiotics appropriately, you do the best for your health, your family’s health and the health of those around you.

Remember — there are potential risks when taking any prescription drug. Unneeded antibiotics may lead to harmful side effects and future antibiotic-resistant infections.

Rest, fluids and over-the-counter products may be your or your child’s best treatment option against viral infections.