Understanding Why Antibiotics aren’t always the answer

U.S. Antibiotic Awareness Week takes place November 18 – 24, 2021 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 during a global pandemic.

“Before COVID-19, there was a larger focus on antibiotic awareness," says Aspirus System Antimicrobial Stewardship Coordinator and Infectious Diseases Pharmacist Tristan O’Driscoll. “Antibiotics don’t treat viruses such as the flu or COVID-19, but patients often expect them when visiting their family physician and they frequently get what they want.”


Antibiotic resistance occurs when germs such as bacteria develop the ability to defeat the drugs designed to kill them. People lose the ability to treat infections when antibiotics lose their effectiveness according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).


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.


“You’re honestly better off managing your symptoms with over-the-counter solutions,” says O’Driscoll. “They will actually make you feel better unlike antibiotics which will only cause harm if you only have a viral infection.”


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 CDC.gov.