A lot of Americans seem to be confused about what are antibiotics and what they’re good for. According to a YouGov survey (full results), a third of American correspondents replied that antibiotics can cure the flu, while a third also thought that vaccines can give you the flu. It goes without saying that this is false. The findings suggest an over prevalence of thought that antibiotics are “good for everything”, an abuse that might cost public health dearly.
We’re fighting a hidden enemy, a sleeper cell. Antibiotics, since their introduction in the early 20th century, have saved the lives of countless people, yet studies repeatedly show that there’s a growing buildup of tolerance. Simply but, bacteria and microbes are getting more apt at evading antibiotics because they’ve grown accustomed to it. The more we use antibiotics, the worse it will get, but right now antibiotics are prescribed for ailments where these aren’t necessary. As doctors are forced to swap classes for another, the world risks running out of effective antibiotics in the not so distant future. On a more positive note, researchers at the Antimicrobial Discovery Center at Northeastern University reported last week how they created a new class of powerful antibiotics – it too might not last forever at this rate, unfortunately.
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Remember, colds, flu, and most sore throats and cases of acute bronchitis are caused by viruses. Antibiotics will not help. Antibiotics are designed to treat infections that are caused by bacteria – not viruses.Taking antibiotics unnecessarily when you have a viral illness can put you at higher risk of drug-resistant infections in the future. This is true for both children and adults.
According to the YouGov research, the vast majority of Americans know that antibiotics are useful when you’re dealing with bacterial infections (84%) and pneumonia (70%), and that they’re not much use against aches and pains (73%) or common colds (66%). Americans are, however, more confused as to whether or not antibiotics can help with the flu and other viral infections. The survey found 41% of Americans say that viral infections can be cured with antibiotics (some doctors do hand out antibiotics for viral infections, which I hope only happens in those cases where it’s actually useful to do!), while 35% think that antibiotics can cure the flu, neither of which is true.
It seems like the younger generation is having a harder time picturing what antibiotics are good for. Those older than 30 know that antibiotics cannot cure the flu, but 48% of under-30s say that the flu can be cured with antibiotics. Perhaps most worrisome is that 38% of Americans, young and old alike, think that getting a flu shot can get you the flu in the first place, which is a myth. Only 21% of people who think you can catch the flu from a shot got one this flu season, while 61% of people who know you cannot catch it got a shot.