Information for Patients
Antibiotics are medicines that fight bacterial infections. Used properly, they can save lives. But there is a growing problem of antibiotic resistance. It happens when bacteria change and become able to resist the effects of an antibiotic.
Using antibiotics can lead to resistance. Each time you take antibiotics, sensitive bacteria are killed. But resistant germs may be left to grow and multiply. They can spread to other people. They can also cause infections that certain antibiotics cannot cure. Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is one example. It causes infections that are resistant to several common antibiotics.
To help prevent antibiotic resistance
- Don't use antibiotics for viruses like colds or flu. Antibiotics don't work on viruses.
- Don't pressure your doctor to give you an antibiotic.
- When you take antibiotics, follow the directions carefully. Finish your medicine even if you feel better. If you stop treatment too soon, some bacteria may survive and re-infect you.
- Don't save antibiotics for later or use someone else's prescription.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
MRSA stands for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. It causes a staph infection (pronounced "staff infection") that is resistant to several common antibiotics. There are two types of infection. Hospital-associated MRSA happens to people in health care settings. Community-associated MRSA happens to people who have close skin-to-skin contact with others, such as athletes involved in football and wrestling.
Infection control is key to stopping MRSA in hospitals. To prevent community-associated MRSA
- Practice good hygiene
- Keep cuts and scrapes clean and covered with a bandage until healed
- Avoid contact with other people's wounds or bandages
- Avoid sharing personal items, such as towels, washcloths, razors, or clothes
- Wash soiled sheets, towels, and clothes in hot water with bleach and dry in a hot dryer
If a wound appears to be infected, see a health care provider. Treatments may include draining the infection and antibiotics.
Sepsis is a serious illness. It happens when your body has an overwhelming immune response to a bacterial infection. The chemicals released into the blood to fight the infection trigger widespread inflammation. This leads to blood clots and leaky blood vessels. They cause poor blood flow, which deprives your body's organs of nutrients and oxygen. In severe cases, one or more organs fail. In the worst cases, blood pressure drops and the heart weakens, leading to septic shock.
Anyone can get sepsis, but the risk is higher in
- People with weakened immune systems
- Infants and children
- Adults 65 and older
- People with chronic illnesses, such as diabetes, AIDS, cancer, and kidney or liver disease
- People suffering from a severe burn or physical trauma
Common symptoms of sepsis are fever, chills, rapid breathing and heart rate, rash, confusion, and disorientation. Doctors diagnose sepsis using a blood test to see if the number of white blood cells is abnormal. They also do lab tests that check for signs of infection.
People with sepsis are usually treated in hospital intensive care units. Doctors try to treat the infection, sustain the vital organs, and prevent a drop in blood pressure. Many patients receive oxygen and intravenous (IV) fluids. Other types of treatment, such as respirators or kidney dialysis, may be necessary. Sometimes, surgery is needed to clear up an infection.
NIH: National Institute of General Medical Sciences