Many people think antibiotics are harmless, but side effects and allergies to the medications are actually one of the most common reasons people go to the emergency room, she said.
"You can get anything ranging from an itchy rash to diarrhea, a torn Achilles tendon from taking a fluoroquinolone like Bactrim, an anaphylactic reaction (an immune system reaction that causes shock) or toxic epidermal necrolysis (a life-threatening skin condition)," Hicks said.
Dr. Len Horovitz, a pulmonologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, said he sees patients every day who want and expect to get antibiotics.
"Intelligent people have magical thinking: problem, solution, cure," he said. "They don't ride out problems in their professional life, they solve them." This causes them to expect a quick resolution to their pesky cold, sinus and flu symptoms, which are caused by viruses and cannot, therefore, be treated with antibiotics. Only bacterial infections can be effectively treated with antibiotics.
Horovitz said physicians need to practice due diligence and take a culture to assess what bacteria, if any, are present before prescribing an antibiotic. "They often just bomb with antibiotics," he said.
For more about antibiotic resistance, try the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
SOURCES: Lauri Hicks, D.O., medical director, Get Smart: Know When Antibiotics Work program, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta; Len Horovitz, M.D., attending physician, internist, pulmonologist, Lenox Hill Hospital, North Shore-LIJ Health System, New York; April 11, 2013, New England Journal of Medicine
All rights reserved