What You Should Know About Antibiotic Overuse?

Antibiotics are commonly prescribed for acute upper respiratory infections, but in most of the cases antibiotics are not recommended. They must be taken as prescribed by your doctor as its overuse can lead to various side effects such as bacterial resistance, mild rashes, and diarrhea etc.

According to a study in 2010, antibiotic adverse events had sent 142, 000 patients to the emergency room each year. In fact, one in five emergency room visits for adverse drug events are due to antibiotics.

In this article, we will discuss the role of antibiotics in upper respiratory infections, and their side effects due to overuse.


Antibiotics or anti-bacterials are medications that destroy or slow down the growth of bacteria. They include a range of powerful drugs and are used to treat diseases caused by bacteria.

Antibiotics Fight Bacteria, Not Viruses

Antibiotics help to fight bacterial infections only. They are not helpful for common respiratory infections such as cold, flu, bronchitis, many types of sore throat, sinus and ear infections. In fact, using antibiotics against viral infections:

  • will not cure the infection
  • will not keep other individuals from catching the virus
  • will not help a person feel better
  • may cause unnecessary, harmful side effects
  • may contribute to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria

Less than 10% of acute bronchitis are due to bacterial infection and they don’t need antibiotics for treatment. Even sore throats occur due to viral etiology. Antibiotics are not recommended unless the patient has strep throat.

Risk of Antibiotic Adverse Events

For every 1,000 antibiotic prescriptions written, one patient will end up in the emergency room due to an adverse reaction. The risk of an emergency room visit due to an antibiotic is three times higher than the risk due to antiplatelet agents (e.g., aspirin), oral hypoglycemic agents (e.g., glyburide), and narrow therapeutic window drugs (e.g., anticonvulsants).

The patients prescribed with antibiotics might experience some adverse effects due to its overuse. The various adverse events that can rise are:

  • Children may experience fatal diarrhea.
  • Antibiotics can upset sensitive gut flora.
  • It can also lead to untreatable gonorrhea.
  • Can lead to rashes. Almost 80% of emergency room visits due to antibiotics are allergic reactions. One in 50 patients prescribed an antibiotic will develop a rash, and about one in 5000 will have an anaphylactic reaction.

The only way to avoid such reactions is to not prescribe the antibiotic in the first place.

Antibiotic Resistance

One of the major fears to global health and development is antibiotic resistance. Antibiotic resistance occurs when the mechanism of bacteria alters due to antibiotics. Humans as well as animals can experience the symptoms of antibiotic resistance. Moreover, the infection due antibiotics is difficult to treat as compared to infection due to non-resistant bacteria.

Scope of The Problem

The risk of antibiotic resistance is increasing all across the world. Some new resistant mechanisms are spreading throughout the world so quickly that it’s threatening our ability to treat common infectious diseases. With this, it’s getting very difficult to treat infections including pneumonia, tuberculosis, blood poisoning and Gonorrhoea. And sometimes it gets impossible to these infections as antibiotics become less effective.


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