Not necessarily, says some medical personnel who warn that while antibiotics do plenty of good in many cases, they can also come with some health challenges attached especially for older people.
The team at Accredited Home Care tries to stay current about antibiotic research especially since there are so many of them in the world and we’re all being encouraged to use products like antibiotic hand soap and hand sanitizer in the current pandemic setting.
To learn more about the current challenges, it helps to learn about what antibiotics are, how they work, and what happens if they work differently than they’re supposed to.
First, antibiotics are a modern tool to naturally combat infections. They’re a part of a group of antimicrobial items that include antifungal and antiparasitic medicines.
Antibiotics generally take the form of pills, injections, or IV fluid, depending on the potency, condition of the patient, and what they’re trying to fight.
Antibiotics don’t do well fighting viral conditions like the flu or the common cold, but they can do well with many bacterial infections, everything from internal conditions like sepsis to minor cuts and other wounds.
This is where things begin to get challenging.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, as many as 28 percent of antibiotics prescribed in outpatient settings annually isn’t necessary. At the same time, plenty of doctors write prescriptions for antibiotics.
A study of antibiotic prescriptions indicates that some health care providers have been advocating them as something of a cure-all for just about everything, including things like colds and the flu.
This approach has unfortunately led to a variety of public health challenges, including strains of antibiotics that don’t work as well or at all; and bacteria that are resistant to common antibiotics.
What this could mean is that an infection that appears to be routine will no longer be able to be stopped by antibiotic treatment, and other methods might need to be employed. Antibiotics can also hurt “better” microbes in the body which could cause other health imbalances and disrupt the immune system.
Some ‘super strains’ have even been found in hospitals, where many patients are in poor health and even more susceptible to infection.
This isn’t just the stuff of horror movies either: the CDC estimates that more than 35,000 people die annually due to infections from bacteria that have become resistant to antibiotics. More also can die due to complications from antibiotic resistance.
The COVID-19 pandemic is causing people to look closer at the positive and negative roles that antibiotics can play.
Antibiotics/antimicrobial ingredients are found in many types of hand sanitizers, which are designed to remove contamination from the hands, especially if it’s difficult to find a sink with soap and water. There are also antimicrobial soaps that are also designed to zap germs but these also may kill beneficial bacteria.
To increase awareness, improve education and hopefully reduce the number of prescriptions, the CDC has a variety of programs in place including “Be Antibiotics Aware,” which offers resources for health care providers, medical facility owners, pharmacists, home health care professionals, patients and their families. This shows how a variety of people and professions need to be involved in improving antibiotic use.
A related effort is U.S. Antibiotic Awareness Week which takes place Nov. 18-24. This program includes educational materials to encourage providers to learn more as well as families who may not realize that there may be other ways to help health conditions.
World Antimicrobial Awareness Week also takes place Nov. 18-24. This one is sponsored by the World Health Organization, which has a similar goal of decreasing the amount of drug-resistant infections on a global scale.
Adding to the confusion about antibiotics is that sometimes seniors experience different effects and have different needs for antibiotics and for infections.
ScienceDirect said those aged 65 and over are more prone to infection.
These infections may not be as noticeable as they might be in someone younger or may behave differently, so a provider may have difficulty detecting what’s happening or prescribing the proper medication.
Antibiotics also may cause other side effects which may not be noticed or connected directly to the antibiotic. For instance, antibiotics are known to cause stomach aches and sometimes constipation in some people. But a senior presenting either of these symptoms to their provider may not be properly diagnosed – their provider may look for other ways of treating these digestive problems, rather than addressing the prescribed antibiotic.
Seniors dealing with dementia also may not be able to express if they’re feeling anything different from antibiotics, leaving their providers to perform more guessing.
Seniors are also more likely to be in poor health and need to be hospitalized than younger people, which could both increase their risk of acquiring an infection. Some seniors who have had antibiotics for years may begin to develop their own resistance.