Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Nursed to Health; Some Illnesses Don't Respond to Antibiotics; Patients Need to Know They Won't Help Viral Infections, Can Cause Serious Side Effects

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Nursed to Health; Some Illnesses Don't Respond to Antibiotics; Patients Need to Know They Won't Help Viral Infections, Can Cause Serious Side Effects

Article excerpt

Byline: Leigh Hart

Antibiotics fight infections caused by bacteria. The first antibiotic, penicillin, was discovered in 1928. In the 1940s, widespread use of antibiotics revolutionized medicine and our ability to fight major bacterial infections. As a result, many lives were saved.

But in recent years, a new problem with bacterial infections has arisen: Antibiotics have been overprescribed for many years.

Patients want relief from their symptoms and illnesses. Health care practitioners want to help and satisfy their patients. So along the way, antibiotics have been prescribed when they shouldn't have been.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that nearly 7 of 10 patients with upper-respiratory infections were prescribed antibiotics. Of those prescriptions, 80 percent were given to patients with viral upper-respiratory infections that do not respond to treatment with antibiotics. This practice contributed to the development of serious drug-resistant infections or "super bugs" that cannot be cured with many antibiotics.

Antibiotics kill bacterial infections, but do not work on viral infections. Most upper-respiratory infections are caused by viruses. The CDC reports that we spend $1.1 billion each year on unnecessary antibiotics for adult viral respiratory infections.a

The CDC also reports that more than 2 million illnesses and 23,000 deaths are reported each year related to antibiotic resistance. Antibiotics can also have serious side effects such as allergic reactions, drug interactions, heart arrhythmias and antibiotic-associated diarrhea.a

JU's nurse practitioner students in its School of Nursing often encounter pressure from patients who think they should be prescribed antibiotics for viral respiratory infections. If they do not receive an antibiotic, they may feel as though they wasted money and time seeking help. Patients also may incorrectly think that an antibiotic would prevent them from spreading the infection, and they may be concerned about the cost and time required to return for help if the symptoms do not resolve.a

These expectations present a challenge for doctors, nurses and all health care practitioners. It is important to teach future nurse practitioners to educate their patients about appropriate antibiotic use.

Here is a composite case recently handled by JU nursing students that presents their typical patient encounters in primary care:a

J.T.

A 23-year-old male, J.T. came to the nurse practitioner clinic complaining of a cough lasting more than a week. He stated he had not had a fever, sore throat, fatigue or any muscle aches. His cough was getting better, but he still experienced some episodes of dry coughing at night. …

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