This week we move onto a particularly interesting topic … what can we do about antibiotic resistance, both collectively and individually?
Most massive point is that we need to prevent unnecessary prescription of antibiotics. Whether that’s from doctors or vets who just want to see if that’ll fix something, or from patients who demand something tangible when they go to see the doctor.
I think we might be seeing some change in these habits. Although I know I’ve been given antibiotics “just in case” for very minor things, more medical professionals are coming to see that some things can just be left to the immune system to fight. Cause our immune systems are actually pretty decent! They cope just fine with most infections!
Vets and farmers are another big issue. Unfortunately, antibiotics can regularly be given farm animals to “keep them healthy”. Over 80% of antibiotics produced are given to animals, massively contributing to superbug growth. And what does giving an antibiotic to an animal actually do? Realistically, I don’t have a problem with helping sick animals, but perfectly healthy ones aren’t going to do much of anything except develop antibiotic resistance. Strategies to address this include:
- Consuming 100g less meat per day (bonus: will also help the environment)
- Taxing antibiotics (it’s estimated that a 50% tax would cut animal usage by 30%)
- Having a cap on the amount of antibiotics allowed to be administered to an animal
Thirdly, helping promote awareness about antibiotics and antibiotic resistance can help prevent patients seeing a doctor and demanding that they be able to take something. As noted in this study:
“Dealing with insistent patient demand for antibiotics is an all too common part of a General Practitioner’s daily routine.”
Much of this stems from a societal belief in wonderful 21st century medicine being able to fix pretty much anything. Unfortunately, it must become a public awareness campaign to demonstrate that we can get better from minor infections ourselves and relying on an antibiotic just to get better a bit quicker will make major infections far more dangerous. Indeed, as explored in the previous post, hospitals and operations may become incredibly risky if we continue to “waste” antibiotics.
So here’s some of the main steps that you as an individual can take to help in the global war on superbugs.
- Antibacterial soap: Don’t use it! The use of antibacterial soaps has been shown to increase resistance in genes that are linked to antibiotic resistance. Although the US banned many antibacterial soaps, other anti-bacterial agents are being used in these products. And what’s more, antibacterial soaps aren’t actually better than normal soaps because the intention of soap is to remove dirt and so forth with all its slipperiness. So a normal soap will do just fine and will help everyone else!
- Get educated: Learn about antibiotic resistance. By doing so, not only can you spread awareness about how much of an issue this is, but you can also chat to your doctor about whether something really needs antibiotics. Sometimes antibiotics are the best option, but it’s also worth discussing the option of whether a minor infection (ear infection, sore throat, etc..) really needs antibiotics.
- Finish your antibiotics: This might sound counter-intuitive, but if you are taking antibiotics to counter a serious infection, don’t just stop halfway through. Finish the whole prescription to avoid allowing some resistant bacteria to survive and further develop resistance.
These might seem to be small steps, but they really can add up. If you want to do more, maybe help promote awareness. You could share posts like this one, or a short film on a post-antibiotic world like CATCH, or help tell others about how using antibacterial soaps and other personal hygiene products is increasing antibiotic resistance!
Because maybe, if we all do a little, it’ll add up to a lot.