Runny noses and sore throats are soon to surround us, but you don’t need antibiotics. This is the message from multiple medical groups like the World Health Organization (WHO) that warn us that taking antibiotics for non-essential reasons—like treating acne, the cold and flu—is leading to more bacteria strains becoming resistant to the drugs. And yet, a recent TIME survey found that while 64 percent of people understand that antibiotic resistance is a big problem, they’re not sure what to do about it. Here are a few updates on this issue:
Color-changing bandage helps avoid unnecessary antibiotics
Scientists are currently developing a bandage that “lights up” so you can avoid using antibiotics preventatively—as in, before you’re actually infected. This bandage was created because people often can’t tell when a burn becomes bacterial and apply antibiotics way too soon. This is the general idea: After you put it on over a burn wound, the bandage eventually releases fluorescent dye from tiny capsules triggered by the toxins secreted by disease-causing bacteria within the wound. The dye capsules are "trained" to specifically recognize very common types of bacteria like Escherichia coli, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Staphylococcus aureus and Enterococcus faecalis, says researchers at the Healing Foundation Children's Burns Research Centre and the University of Brighton in the UK. This product has still yet to be tested on humans and not yet available for purchase.
American Academy of Pediatrics warns of antibiotic overuse in farm animals
In the journal Pediatrics, the American Academy of Pediatrics cautions against the overuse of antibiotics in farm animals, as it may pose a risk to children. Huge quantities of antibiotics are added to the feed of healthy livestock to boost growth, increase feed efficiency or prevent disease, which has led to highly resistant strains of bacteria in the animals. And the bacteria may be transferred to humans when we consume the meat. This common practice has led to children, pregnant women and older individuals developing life-threatening, difficult-to-treat infections caused by strains of bacteria like methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and tuberculosis bacterium. This is certainly another factor to consider when serving your family meat. If you prefer alternatives, opt for plant-based protein sources like beans, lentils, quinoa or peas.
Facts to help you avoid taking too many antibiotics
A WHO survey of 10,000 people in 12 different countries—Barbados, China, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Nigeria, Russia, Serbia, South Africa, Sudan and Vietnam—found that people don’t know much about antibiotic resistance (when the bacteria has become resistant to antibiotics and can spread illness).
Here are some basic facts you should know:
- Anyone can get an antibiotic-resistant infection, whether or not you regularly use antibiotics.
- Antibiotics are appropriate for conditions like pneumonia, strep throat and sinusitis.
- Antibiotics do not help colds and flu, as these are caused by viruses—not bacteria. Taking antibiotics for these kinds of illnesses leads to resistance problems.
- When you’re prescribed an antibiotic, take the entire prescription in the time frame that is recommended, or your infection will not be fully treated and bacteria can become drug resistant.