Theyre at the gym. The office. Your house. A new epidemic of drug-resistant bugs and viruses has arrived and you need to know how to protect yourself.
- Wash the right way. There is some concern that the triclosan in antibacterial soaps could lead to resistance, and its not clear whether theyre any more effective than scrubbing for 30 seconds with regular soap and water. Alcohol and bleach are also effective surface cleaners that dont create resistance.
- Buy organic. The antibiotics in the feed of some nonorganic farm animals may contribute to antibiotic resistance. Check your local farmers markets and food co-ops for the best deals on organic milk and meat.
- Dont take an antibiotic unless you absolutely have to. “We could probably cut our antibiotic use by 70% if people only took them when they are absolutely necessary,” says Louis Rice, MD, an expert on resistant bugs and chief of medical service at Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center. With some illnesses that typically go away on their own, like ear infections and sinus infections, you can practice what docs call watchful waitingget the prescription, but dont fill it unless the condition persists.
- Ask for the shortest course of antibiotics. “The optimal length of antibiotic use for most illnesses may be much less than the current recommendations,” Dr. Rice says. “There might be a three-day course or a seven-day course that is equally effective as a longer one.” For example, when doctors studied treatments for urinary-tract infections, they found that 87% cleared up with a single dose of antibiotics and 94% were cured with a three-day course.
- Speak out. Urge Congress to fund more research into antibiotic resistance and alternatives to antibiotic.