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Be Antibiotics Aware in 2018

The Alabama Department of Public Health joins the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in a campaign to encourage patients, families, and health care professionals to learn about safe antibiotic prescribing and use.

Each year in the United States, at least 2 million people are infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and at least 23,000 die as a result. Antibiotic resistance, one of the most urgent threats to the public’s health, occurs when bacteria no longer respond to the drugs designed to kill them.

The Be Antibiotics Aware campaign provides educational resources to help health care professionals improve antibiotic prescribing. Be Antibiotics Aware also educates the public on what illnesses antibiotics treat, how to take antibiotics appropriately, and that antibiotics can have minor to very severe side effects.

Antibiotics are critical tools for treating common infections, such as pneumonia, and for life-threatening conditions including sepsis. Antibiotics are only needed for treating certain infections caused by bacteria. Antibiotics will not help some common bacterial infections including most cases of bronchitis, many sinus infections, and some ear infections.

Any time antibiotics are used, they can cause side effects and lead to antibiotic resistance. When antibiotics are not needed, they will not help, and there can be harmful side effects. Common side effects range from rashes and yeast infections to severe health problems such as Clostridium difficile infection (also called C. difficile or C. diff), which causes diarrhea that can lead to severe colon damage and death.

Take antibiotics exactly as prescribed. Patients and families should talk with their health care professional if they have any questions about their antibiotics, or if they develop side effects, especially diarrhea, since that could be C. difficile, which needs to be treated.

Antibiotics are not effective in treating viruses, such as colds and flu, or runny noses, even if the mucus is thick, yellow, or green. Respiratory viruses usually go away in a week or two without treatment. Patients and families can ask their health care provider about the best way to feel better while their body fights off the virus.

Keep yourself and others healthy by practicing the following:

  • Cleaning your hands
  • Covering your coughs
  • Staying home when sick
  • Getting recommended vaccines--for example, for influenza

Antibiotics save lives. When a patient needs antibiotics, the benefits outweigh the risks of side effects and antibiotic resistance.

To learn more about Be Antibiotics Aware resources and antibiotic prescribing and use, visit Improving the way antibiotics are taken helps people stay healthy now, helps fight antibiotic resistance, and ensures that life-saving antibiotics will be available for future generations.

Scott Harris, M.D.
Acting State Health Officer

(January 2018)

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Page last updated: January 2, 2018