IDPH Warns Against Overusing Antibiotics

Nov 28, 2018

Credit Flickr user Michael Chen "Pills" (CC BY 2.0)

The Illinois Department of Public Health is cautioning residents against the overuse of antibiotics.

Antibiotics are effective at fighting bacterial diseases. But the most common conditions for which people visit a doctor are cold and flu, which are viruses.  IDPH spokeswoman Melaney Arnold says the effectiveness of antibiotics on other diseases creates a sort of expectation in patients.

“The doctor may not prescribe an antibiotic for them because they believe it’s a virus or they don’t think it will be effective, but people tend to feel better if they are given some type of medication, and therefore, they almost demand an antibiotic from their physician," she said.

Arnold says taking antibiotics when you’re sick with a virus or taking antibiotics when you don’t need them can contribute to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which are much harder to cure.  There can also be more direct consequences. 

"They can also cause side effects anytime you use antibiotics for a virus," she said. "Some of those side effects include dizziness, nausea, diarrhea, [and] yeast infection.”

Antibiotic prescriptions are also tailored to a specific person and disease.  So Arnold says people should take their own medicine according to the instructions and until it runs out, not just when they feel better.