With the official start to winter last Saturday and those Change of Season illnesses floating through our community, my mind has turned to the topic of antibiotic resistance. (Helped along by the fact that my immune system spent last week fighting off some lurgy.)
The discovery of penicillin in 1928 by Alexander Fleming and its commercial production in the 1940s, revolutionised the treatment of bacterial infection. Penicillin became a miracle drug that along with other antibiotics has saved the lives of millions of people worldwide.
The use of antibiotics is a double-edged sword; while highly effective in killing susceptible bacteria it actively assists resistant bacteria become stronger. So much so that the World Health Organisation’s Director General, Margaret Chan, warned in 2012, that bacteria were starting to become so resistant to common antibiotics that it could bring about “the end of modern medicine as we know it.”
Many people in our western world have become obsessed with eradicating all bacteria; believing this is the way to a healthy life. Many of us run to our doctors, expecting or demanding antibiotic prescriptions to treat minor illnesses. The “War on Germs” has supermarket shelves awash with antimicrobial cleaning products that leave a low-dose bacteria-killing residue.
Unfortunately these cleaning products along with the misuse of antibiotics for minor ailments, are killing off the very bacteria and micro flora that keep us healthy and allowing the “super bugs” to flourish.
Antibiotic resistant “super bugs” are a serious threat to our health but each and every one of us can help to minimise this threat by learning and implementing the following guidelines.
· Only take antibiotics when absolutely necessary.
· If you are taking antibiotics, complete the entire course (don’t stop early because you are feeling better).
· Do not self-medicate using old antibiotics.
· Remember: antibiotics do not work against viruses (the ‘flu is a virus… so is a cold).
· Practise good hygiene i.e: wash your hands with soap and water; cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing.
· Stay home if you are sick.
· Avoid using products that claim to be antimicrobial, antibacterial or contain antibiotics unless advised to by your doctor.
· If you continue to feel unwell, see your doctor.
Your health is your responsibility – no one else’s. I am a firm believer in sleep, good nutrition and exercise as my number one defence against illness… it’s just sometimes I forget this and burn the candle at both ends for a little too long… cue lurgy… cue chicken soup.