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How can antibiotics hurt you?

By Dr. Lan Ly, family medicine physician


As an organization, Manhattan Medical Group supports efforts by healthcare advocacy groups to use antibiotics appropriately with patients.


The Kansas Healthcare Collaborative (KHC) has launched the #UseAntibioticsWisely campaign to bring awareness to the issue of overuse and misuse of antibiotics that can lead to antibiotic resistance.


Here are a few guidelines that we follow when considering whether a patient needs antibiotics:

  • Antibiotics only work on bacteria, not on illnesses caused by viruses such as the common cold and flu.

  • Taking antibiotics when they aren't needed can increase your risk later of getting an infection that resists antibiotic treatment.

  • Sharing antibiotics or using leftover antibiotics can increase antibiotic resistance.


Resistance is already a reality


Antibiotic resistance is already affecting our health. It causes longer hospital stays and a higher death rate when infections can no longer be treated because of a patient's antibiotic resistance. According to KHC, up to 10 million people may die each year from untreatable infections by 2050 if we are not proactive about fighting antibiotic resistance.


Antibiotic use has its own adverse effects including medication interactions, increasing risk for c. difficile (infection of your gut when your normal flora gets cleared out by the antibiotics), allergic reactions and more. To decrease diarrhea risk, you can take over-the-counter probiotics during your antibiotic course.


If you are prescribed antibiotics, it is important to take until completion to prevent resistance. This occurs when bacteria is not completely killed off so it recognizes the structure of antibiotic and develops an enzyme or alters its own structure to build resistance.


Each geographic area and/or hospital has its own antibiogram to show resistance rates in the area. It changes from year to year, which could be a reason why your doctor might pick a specific antibiotic over another.

What can you do?


  • Understand that antibiotics will not help if you have a viral infection.

  • Only take antibiotics in the way they have been prescribed.

  • Understand it's possible to pass on antibiotic resistant bacteria to others.

  • Wash your hands regularly to prevent the spread of bacteria.

  • Have a conversation with your doctor about using antibiotics wisely.