Aspirus Media Center

Understanding Why Antibiotics Aren’t Always The Answer


Tristan O'Driscoll, Aspirus Infectious Disease Pharmacist

U.S. Antibiotic Awareness Week takes place November 18 – 24 and is an annual observance that gives participating organizations an opportunity to raise awareness of the importance of appropriate antibiotic use to combat the threat of antibiotic resistance.


Antibiotics can save lives, but patients and providers need to outweigh the risks of side effects and antibiotic resistance, especially with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and projections of a more severe flu season.


“When antibiotics aren’t needed, they won’t help you and the side effects can actually hurt you,” says Antimicrobial Stewardship Coordinator and Infectious Diseases Pharmacist Tristan O’Driscoll. Adverse reactions can include dizziness, nausea, yeast infections, diarrhea, rash and life-threatening allergic reactions, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).


Antibiotic resistance occurs when germs such as bacteria develop the ability to defeat the drugs designed to kill them.


“The more we use antibiotics, the less effective they become, making it difficult to treat viral infections that may occur in the future,” warns O’Driscoll.


The CDC also states that an antibiotic will not make one feel better if they have a virus. Respiratory viruses usually go away in a week or two without treatment.


O’Driscoll explains “antibiotics kill bacteria, not viruses. They will not help viral infections such as a cold, the flu or COVID-19, and can end up doing more harm than good.” O’Driscoll recommends getting the flu vaccine and keeping up to date with COVID boosters as the best way to prevent an opportunity to receive antibiotics that aren’t needed.


Everyone can help improve antibiotic prescribing and use. Improving the way healthcare professionals prescribe antibiotics, and the way we take antibiotics, helps keep us healthy now, helps fight antibiotic resistance, and ensures that these life-saving antibiotics will be available for future generations.


For more information on antibiotic awareness, visit




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