The Prairie Doc Perspective
By Richard P. Holm MD
People are dying from antibiotic resistant bacteria, and it’s not just the sick and decrepit. Last month three healthy children from the east coast died from unstoppable infections. Recent studies show many more people are dying in the US from antibiotic resistant bacteria than from AIDS. It’s a real crisis, from too much of a good thing.
Resistance is due to excessive and over-use of antibiotics, which are often incorrectly seen as the cure for whatever ails us. The most glaring example is when antibiotics are given for what is obviously the common cold, making absolutely no difference in the course of the illness. Further, studies show antibiotics don’t prevent the pneumonia that can follow the cold.
So why are we over-using antibiotics? Certainly an effective sales effort by the pharmaceutical industry is part of it, but what’s most to blame is patient or parent expectation. One study showed that 65% of the time children get antibiotics if the Dr. perceives the parents expect them, but only 12% of the time when antibiotics are not expected.
There is another huge reason for growing antibiotic resistance. Antibiotics are regularly added to animal and poultry feed, which apparently boosts growth and profits. What’s worse, the animals are now getting the newer broader spectrum antibiotics.
The good news is that in countries where efforts are made to use fewer antibiotics in general, and when needed less broad-spectrum antibiotics, then, over just a few years antibiotics become effective again.
So, there is something very important you can do. First, never push your doctor for an antibiotic. Make it clear you would be happy without the stuff unless it’s necessary.
Second, please push your grocery store and your restaurant for antibiotic-free meat. If we are willing to pay more for antibiotic free products, farmers will provide.
By avoiding the over use of antibiotics, we can save ourselves from a real crisis.
Take home message:
- People are dying because of bacterial resistance to antibiotics induced by the over-use of antibiotics in people and animals.
- Studies show antibiotics become effective again when used appropriately.
- Never push your doctor for antibiotics.
- Encourage grocery stores and restaurants to sell antibiotic free meat.
Dr. Rick Holm wrote this Prairie Doc Perspective for “On Call®,” a weekly program where medical professionals discuss health concerns for the general public. “On Call®” is produced by the Healing Words Foundation in association with the South Dakota State University Journalism Department. “On Call®” airs Thursdays on South Dakota Public Broadcasting-Television at 7 p.m. Central, 6 p.m. Mountain. Visit us at OnCallTelevision.com.