During the flu season, the unnecessary use of antibiotics has also increased. Health experts are trying to make people aware that the incorrect usage of antibiotics could cause way more harm to the body than good.
- Many people have been taking antibiotics during the flu season, say experts.
- Unnecessary consumption of antibiotics will result in resistance that could harm the body.
- Antibiotics should only taken after diagnosis is done by a health expert.
As the flu season has hit the country with people experiencing bouts of cough and fever with chills, many are heading to pharmacy stores to buy over-the-counter antibiotics. Witnessing the trend, doctors have cautioned against the use of antibiotics without medical diagnosis and are urging people not to self-medicate.
Though the practice of self-treatment has been quite a common phenomenon, especially when people contract the influenza virus, health experts are trying to make people aware that the incorrect usage of antibiotics could cause way more harm to the body than good.
In response to the rising number of cases of influenza infection, the Indian Medical Association (IMA) advised against the indiscriminate use of antibiotics like Azithromycin and Amoxiclav to alleviate symptoms.
WHAT ARE ANTIBIOTICS?
“Antibiotics, as the name suggests, means killing bios (life) or bacteria that cause harm in the body. Any infection that is caused by bacteria will respond to the antibiotic,” Dr Sharad Malhotra, Senior Consultant & HOD, Gastroenterology Hepatology & Therapeutic Endoscopy, Aakash Healthcare told indiatoday.in.
Dr Malhotra added that antibiotics are medications that are designed specifically for a region like a throat infection caused by bacteria. “Antibiotics are different for different regions of the body wherever the bacterial infection is present,” he said.
HOW DO ANTIBIOTICS WORK IN THE BODY?
Though antibiotics do not work on flu or any viral infection, they are only required when there is a secondary bacterial infection, which should only be “diagnosed by a doctor”.
If you’re consuming antibiotics for a throat infection, the medicine goes to the stomach where it is broken down by the enzymes. The partially absorbed medication will traverse the stomach and go into the bloodstream. From the bloodstream, it will be circulated to the entire body and reach the infection in the throat through it and kill the bacteria.
“The absorption and blood circulation of the antibiotics will cure the bacterial infection,” said Dr Malhotra. In the hospital, patients are given intravenous antibiotics (injections). Each antibiotic has a dosage period that should be followed without fail.
WHY YOU SHOULDN’T SELF-MEDICATE?
“Most of the cough and cold cases are viral in nature and they require adequate rest, steaming, maybe, cough syrup. If you take antibiotics, the virus is not going to get cured. Antibiotics are not the right therapy for it,” said Dr Malhotra.
Since viruses have a lifetime of 2-3 days, people also consume antibiotics for that duration and do not complete the entire course.
“You’re not doing anything good to the body by doing that. The bacteria which are present inside the body will start becoming resistant to the medication. If you require antibiotics in the future, your body will have resistance to it,” the expert added.
Dr Bhushan Bhole, Senior consultant, liver transplant and surgical gastroenterology, PSRI Hospital, said that antibiotics affect the blood’s microbiome, which protects the body from infections.
“This can lead to abdominal cramps, pain and diarrhoea-like symptoms in some patients,” said Dr Bhole.
WHAT IS ANTIBIOTIC RESISTANCE?
While resistance happens in the body, experts say that bacteria resistance can also be seen when a person unnecessarily takes antibiotics.
“There are mutations in the chromosomal level of the bacteria which happen over a period of time and then they develop antibiotic resistance. So genetic level resistance happens in the bacteria as well in developing antibiotic resistance,” said Dr Bhole.
Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) scientists also said that self-medicating with antibiotics for seasonal colds should not be encouraged as their overuse and misuse can result in antibiotic resistance.
Never start an antibiotic on your own, as per the expert. “If you’ve started an antibiotic, then take a full dose of it or go through the entire course. If you don’t do this, you’re harming yourself and harming the community as well,” said Dr Malhotra.
When your body is resistant to an antibiotic, Dr Bhole added that the next time a person really needs it, “they will need a bigger dose or a change to a bigger antibiotic to cure the same small illness.”
HOW TO REDUCE ANTIBIOTIC RESISTANCE?
“Out-patient stewardship should be done among general practitioners,” advised Dr Bhole. This helps in the judicial distribution of antibiotics in the market, he said.