The lead-up to World Antimicrobial Awareness Week (18 – 24 November) creates the perfect opportunity to clear up the misconceptions and myths about antibiotic use. These myths can contribute to the inappropriate or overuse of these life-saving medications.
Antibiotic Use: Busting Myths
Among the most common public misconceptions is that a sore throat can be cured with antibiotics.
Based on a study conducted across 13 countries among 5,000+ respondents, over 80% confirmed that they had visited a doctor in the last 12 months to treat a sore throat. Those who thought antibiotics would be helpful varied across countries – from 24% in France to 94% in Saudi Arabia, to over 60% in South Africa.
An acute sore throat is one of the most common concerns patients consult doctors for. Yet, antibiotics are not always effective at treating a sore throat. This is because most throat infections are caused by viruses, not bacteria. Antibiotics are designed to treat bacterial infections, not viral infections.
Overuse or misuse of antibiotics can lead to antibiotic resistance, which is a major public health concern.
Using antibiotics when they are not needed can contribute to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Antibiotics can have side effects, and taking them when not necessary can expose you to unnecessary risks. Some people may experience allergic reactions or digestive problems when taking antibiotics.
When antibiotics are used inappropriately, they can also disrupt the natural balance of bacteria in the body. This includes the gut microbiome, which can lead to yeast or other fungal infections.
Antibiotic resistance is a significant and growing global public health issue, posing a serious threat to modern medicine. Antibiotic resistance can have wide-ranging consequences for individuals, communities, and healthcare systems.
When bacteria become resistant to antibiotics, it means that infections caused by these bacteria become more difficult. In some cases, the bacteria can become impossible to treat. This can lead to
- prolonged illnesses
- increased mortality rates
- a higher risk of complications from infections
Efforts to combat antibiotic resistance involve a multifaceted approach. It starts with the responsible use of antibiotics.
It’s essential to follow your healthcare provider’s guidance about the use of antibiotics. You should not self-prescribe or use antibiotics unnecessarily. If you have a sore throat, it’s good practice to consult a healthcare professional to determine the cause and appropriate treatment.
Most throat infections typically run their course without medical intervention. In fact, most people recover within a week or so as their immune system fights off the virus. Yet, in some cases, a sore throat may be caused by a bacterial infection, such as streptococcal bacteria (strep throat). In these cases, antibiotics may be prescribed by a healthcare provider to treat the infection and prevent potential complications.
Your healthcare provider can help determine whether your sore throat is viral or bacterial through clinical evaluation and if necessary, diagnostic tests like throat swabs.
Patient education and awareness about the appropriate use of antibiotics are crucial components of antibiotic stewardship. When patients understand when antibiotics should be used and when they should be avoided, they can play an active role in promoting responsible antibiotic use.
Once patients are actively engaged in antibiotic stewardship, it can have a positive impact on public health by reducing antibiotic resistance and preserving the effectiveness of these critical medications.
If you’re plagued by the odd sore throat, try fast-acting throat sprays with anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and anti-microbial properties. They can be effective at soothing and healing a sore mouth or throat with the added advantage of reducing the development of plaque.
Who Is The Author?
Elani van Zyl is the Critical Care Product Manager for Pharma Dynamics.
van der Velden, A. W., Sessa, A., Altiner, A., Pignatari, A. C. C., & Shephard, A. (2020). Patients with Sore Throat: A Survey of Self-Management and Healthcare-Seeking Behavior in 13 Countries Worldwide. Pragmatic and observational research, 11, 91–102. https://doi.org/10.2147/POR.S255872