Fighting “Superbugs” by Curbing Antibiotic Resistance

With drug-resistant staph infections making headlines in recent weeks, many concerned patients are trying to separate fact from fiction while learning how to best protect themselves and their families from these new “superbugs.” Although methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, is probably the most talked-about drug resistant infection, today about 70 percent of bacteria that cause infections in hospitals are resistant to at least one common antibiotic. Tuberculosis, gonorrhea, malaria, childhood ear infections, and other bacterial conditions are getting increasingly hard to treat, returning us to the days before antibiotics were invented.

Talk to your patients about the steps they can take to help curb antibiotic resistance and reduce the likelihood of falling victim to MRSA and other drug-resistant bacteria.

What Causes Antibiotic Resistance?
• Antibiotic resistance is a natural process in the evolution of bacteria—single-celled organisms found on the inside and outside of the body, except in blood and spinal fluid.
• Most bacteria are harmless and even beneficial. Some bacteria can cause illnesses such as strep throat or ear infections, which are usually treated with antibiotic medications.
• When antibiotics are taken, they kill the bacteria that are too weak to resist them—but those strong enough to withstand the antibiotic effect can survive, multiply, and dominate the bacteria strain, creating an environment for the bacteria to become more resilient.

To Prevent Antibiotic Resistance:
• Boost your immunity by eating a quality diet, exercising, reducing stress. During the cold and flu season, take vitamin C and zinc.
• Do not demand antibiotics for you or your child to treat viral infections, such as common colds, coughs, and flu.
• Mild ear infections also heal by themselves within one or two weeks. Some anecdotal evidence shows that chiropractic adjustments may help relieve the pain associated with ear infections by allowing fluid to drain from the Eustachian tube.
• If a medical doctor does prescribe antibiotics, stick to the schedule and take the entire dosage, even if you are feeling better.
• Don’t save any antibiotics for the next time you get sick.
• Don’t take an antibiotic prescribed for another person—it may not be appropriate for your condition, possibly delaying recovery and prompting bacteria to multiply.
• Antibacterial cleaning products have not been proven to prevent the spread of infection better than non-antibacterial products. In fact, some preliminary studies have shown that antibacterial cleaning products may contribute to antibiotic resistance.

What Are Staph and MRSA?
• Staphylococcus aureus (staph) is a bacterium that can cause both mild and severe illness. Mild infections, which may look like a pimple or boil and can be red, swollen, painful, or have pus or other drainage, are usually easily treated. More serious infections may cause bloodstream or surgical infections, or pneumonia, with symptoms such as fever, chills and shortness of breath.
• A form of staph infection called MRSA (methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus), which does not respond to routine treatment with some common antibiotics, has long been associated with hospitals and other health care facilities, but has recently started appearing outside these settings.
• Approximately 25-30 percent of healthy people may carry staph and only 1 percent carry MRSA. Staph bacteria, often carried on the skin or in the nose of healthy people, are contracted through direct contact with skin, blood, or contaminated items, sometimes causing infection.

To Protect Yourself and Your Family from Staph and MRSA:
• Wash your hands before eating and after using the restroom or touching potentially contaminated items.
• Keep your and your kids’ wounds clean and covered. When wounds don’t heal properly, seek medical attention.
• Avoid sharing and encourage children not to share personal items such as clothes, towels, soap, and razors.
•Promptly change wet and sweaty clothes, for example, after going to the gym.
When working out in a gym, use your own yoga mat, shower with flip-flops, and sanitize fitness equipment.

Sources: ACA Today, By Nataliya Schetchikova, PhD

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