8 Myths and truths about antibiotic use


November 18 is celebrated on European Day for the Prudent Use of Antibiotics and all this week the World Awareness WeekNo on this matter.

The main reason for this type of campaign is to raise awareness among society in general and health professionals about the correct use of this medicine, since the misuse of antibiotics is the main cause of the emergence of those known as 'super bacteria', organisms resistant to antibiotics that cause every year 33,000 deaths in Europe, 3,000 of them in Spain, according to sources of the Ministry of Health.

Further, The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) he estimates that in 2050 almost 78,000 people will have died in our country because of that cause, an impact comparable to that of influenza, tuberculosis and AIDS together.

Image of the Ministry of Health campaign to promote the proper use of anthobiotics.
Image of the Ministry of Health campaign to promote the proper use of anthobiotics.
Ministry of Health

Despite the campaigns, there are still a series of myths -and some truths- around the use of antibiotics. These are the most widespread:

1 – They are valid for everything, also for flu and colds. False

This is the most widespread and the most dangerous myth, because antibiotics only act when there is a bacterial infection, not those produced by viruses or fungi. Therefore, they are not effective in treating colds or flu, as 36% of the population in Spain still thinks. Occasionally, antibiotics can be effective in complications from the flu or colds, such as otitis, sinusitis or some types of pneumonia, but not for the disease itself. Moreover, not even in all tonsillitis (plaques in the tonsils) the use of antibiotics is indicated, so more and more doctors perform a small test in the office to determine whether or not it is a strep throat, which is a bacterial infection

2 – They weaken and lower the defenses. False

On many occasions, after treatment with antibiotics we chain another type of infection, such as candidiasis, but this It is not due to the lowering of your defenses, but to the alteration of the microbiota. The antibiotic, by not discriminating between "bad" and "good" bacteria, ends up with a large number of bacteria that have positive functions in our body. This causes other organisms to proliferate, such as fungi. However, this usually only happens in prolonged treatment and is usually temporary. What weakens us and makes us feel tired is the disease itself, not antibiotics.

3 – They can cause diarrhea and take away appetite. True

As we explained in the previous point, antibiotics can cause an alteration in our intestinal microbiota and what is known as secondary diarrhea, especially in the case of children. In fact, at least one in 10 children who take antibiotics suffer from it. This type of diarrhea, in addition to loss of appetite, can cause an alteration of the absorption of nutrients, liquids, minerals, etc. To avoid it, or minimize it, It is increasingly common to use probiotics, especially those containing Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG, the most studied bacterial probiotic in the world and whose effectiveness has been most proven in these cases. Taking yogurts or other probiotic foods can also help.

4 – Antibiotic resistance is only the one who abuses. False.

It is bacteria that become resistant, not people. And a ‘superbacteria’ can be passed from one person to another regardless of whether or not he has abused antibiotics.

5- They should always be taken with meals. False.

In fact, there are some types of antibiotics, such as azimotricine or ciprofloxacin, which are best taken away from meals because they reduce or slow down their absorption. The pharmacist or doctor will indicate when it is best to ingest them.

6 – Never mix with alcohol. True.

Or at least, it's nothing convenient. In some cases, drinking alcohol does not interfere with the effect of the antibiotic, but in many cases it does, either decreasing its absorption or causing unpleasant side effects, so it is best to always avoid them. Further, Alcohol damages the immune system and reduces our body's ability to cope with infections., so it is especially discouraged if we are sick.

7 – The more powerful, the better. False.

On the contrary, because broad-spectrum antibiotics, especially if used in common infections, enhance antibiotic resistance. For each type of infection, there is an ideal group of medications.

8 – Those injected are more effective. False.

Neither they act better nor before, because administering antibiotics intravenously is usually left for special cases, such as people with difficulty swallowing or who tolerate medication poorly.

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