Antibiotic Awareness Week, which runs Nov. 18-24, draws attention to the fact that taking unnecessary antibiotics increases risk to both ourselves and our communities. Antibiotic resistance is a global threat and is not contained to the individual who took the antibiotic.

Side effects from taking antibiotics — such as nausea, diarrhea and rash — can happen whether the antibiotic is necessary or not. This can make us even more uncomfortable or sick feeling.

The more exposure we have to antibiotics, the more likely bacteria will develop resistance to them. The resistance that bacteria develop is not contained within the human host who takes the antibiotics.

Bacteria like to share how to resist antibiotics with each other. This can happen between the bacteria that lives in us all the time and bacteria that happens to pop in for a visit. If our regular bacteria have gathered the resistance strategies from their new friends and subsequently cause us to become ill, the antibiotics the health care providers prescribe will not be effective.

Taking antibiotics only as prescribed and when needed reduces the development of resistance by decreasing unnecessary exposure, ensuring appropriate drug selection, and maximizing scientifically based effective dosing strategies. It mitigates the risk of bacterial resistance development to both us and our communities.

I urge everyone to take antibiotics only as prescribed, and only when necessary.

Dr. Allison Burden, Bradford, PharmD, RPh., antimicrobial resistance specialist, Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention

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