The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) has declared this week, October 5 – 11, 2009, Get Smart about Antibiotics Week.  Their efforts originate from the need to educate the population about antibiotic resistance and the importance of appropriate antibiotic use.

Antibiotics have been around since even before the hailed Penicillin was discovered.  Ancient Chinese, Egyptians, Greek and medi-evil Arabs all used plants and molds with antibiotic-like properties to fight infection.  Today no one has to go out to the field in search of plants, or set aside an slice of bread and wait for mold to grow in order to obtain these powerful antimicrobial compounds.  Antibiotics are as easy as a trip to your family doctor and their effectiveness is just as simple.  Well, almost…

While antibiotics are fabulous against bacterial infection, they do not fight infections caused by viruses, which, I hate to tell ya, is the category common colds and flu fall into.  Doctors everyday see children and adults for sore throats, ear infections, upper respiratory infections, sinus infections, all of which could be a bacterial infection, but more often than not are viral.  By prescribing an antibiotic to these patients before finding out the cause, they are doing more harm than good, both to the patient and the population.

When antibiotics are used too often for things they can’t treat, they can stop working effectively against bacteria.  Antibiotic resistance has been a concern for years and is considered one of the world’s most pressing public health problems.  Widespread overuse of antibiotics is fueling an increase in antibiotic-resistant bacteria. So the next time you or your child really needs an antibiotic for a bacterial infection, it may not work. ¹

Watch this short video put out by National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases (NCIRD) to help parents and kids learn more about improper antibiotic prescription:

Also read NY Times columnist ANAHAD O’CONNOR’s Really? The Claim: Antibiotics Will Beat a Sinus Infection for facts about antibiotics and sinus infections.

¹ Get Smart: Know When Antibiotics Work