Using Antibiotics Wisely: the best weapon in the fight against “Super Bugs”

Executive Director Patient Safety, Operations Lead Partnership for Patients, Washington State Hospital Association

Antibiotics are the only drug where use in one patient can affect the drug’s effectiveness in another. According to the Centers for Disease Control, each year in the United States at least two million people become infected with bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics and at least 23,000 people die each year as a direct result of these infections.

Patients can play an important role in preventing “super bugs” by understanding when antibiotics are most appropriate. Remember: antibiotics cure bacterial infections, not viral infections such as colds or flu; most coughs and bronchitis; sore throats that are not caused by strep; or runny noses. Your health care providers work hard to prevent the spread of serious bacterial illnesses through diligent hand hygiene, isolation of infected patients, and cleaning of the environment.

Patients and providers can work together to preserve the availability of effective antibiotics. Taking an antibiotic when it is not needed can lead to the development of antibiotic resistance. When resistance develops, antibiotics may not be able to stop future infections. Every time someone takes an antibiotic they don’t need, they increase their risk of developing a resistant infection in the future. Learn more about what patients can do to ensure antibiotics are only used when necessary at