Why Antibiotic Resistance Occurs & How to Protect Yourself

Antibiotics have been used since the late 19th century to treat bacterial infections. Used properly, antibiotics kill bacteria or halt them from further producing. Marc Sprenger, Director of WHO’s (World Health Organization) Secretariat for Antimicrobial Resistance, says he fears we are moving backward, into a world where bacterial infections will once again be lethal.

What Caused Antibiotic Resistance?

So, what’s caused antibiotics to stop working as they once did? Over the years, antibiotics have been overprescribed and improperly used, causing bacteria to evolve, becoming antibiotic resistant. Sprenger also shared  “It is inevitable that each drug will lose its ability to kill disease-causing bacteria over time. That is because bacteria, through natural selection and genetic adaptation, become resistant to antibiotics.” And, while researchers and scientists are looking at ways to slow down and stop the spread of resistance, there are some things we as consumers need to do to help keep this from occurring, as well.

Avoid Antibiotics for Viral Infections

Not all infections are created equal. Bacterial and viral infections are completely different and need different medications in the healing process. Antibiotics do not work against viruses. While bacterial infections can be treated with antibiotics, viral infections should not be. Click To Tweet In fact, treating a virus with antibiotics might do more harm than help.

Don’t Reuse Leftover Antibiotics

When antibiotics are prescribed, you are usually told to take the entire bottle or finish the entire round. Unfortunately, studies show that many people do not take their entire prescription and save their antibiotics for later use. In fact, one in four people claims to have self-diagnosed themselves and taken leftover antibiotics without talking to their healthcare provider. This is a huge issue and contributing to antibiotic resistance. Never take antibiotics without first seeing your doctor.

Don’t Use Anyone Else’s Prescription

Just because your friend has some antibiotics they haven’t used, doesn’t mean you should take them. As mentioned, antibiotics only work for bacterial infections. Again, it is imperative to see your doctor before taking any prescriptions–especially when they weren’t prescribed to you! Prescriptions are prescribed with one person in mind and particular ailments, so their prescription might not be the right one for you.

Reduce Exposure

Sadly, we are exposed to antibiotics even when we aren’t prescribed them, too. An estimated 80% of all antibiotics sold in the United States are sold to farmers to treat livestock for infection prevention. These antibiotics are ingested when we eat and resistant bacteria move through our bodies. Try to buy foods that claim no antibiotics to reduce your exposure.


Antibiotics should only be taken when prescribed by your health professional, and should only be prescribed when absolutely necessary. If you feel your doctor is prescribing them too often, don’t be afraid to ask them if it is really what you need or if there is an alternative treatment to try first.  

Protect Yourself From Antibiotic Resistance

According to the World Health Organization, “The world is heading towards a post-antibiotic era in which common infections will once kill again.” Make sure to follow these preventative measures and to always speak to your doctor before taking any prescription medicines.

To learn more about why antibiotic resistance occurs, and how you can protect yourself, Contact Us.

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