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Antibiotics – careful use helps prevent resistance

Antibiotics are indispensable when it comes to preventing and treating many bacterial infections. At the same time, though, bacteria are becoming increasingly resistant against antibiotics. This health tip looks closely at this issue and the options you have.

Antibiotics are generally used for treating infections such as bronchitis, pneumonia or blood poisoning. But they are often also prescribed to people with a weak immune system. Most colds with cough, runny nose, sore throat, earache, sinusitis, eye inflammation, hoarseness, and even flu are caused by viruses against which antibiotics are virtually ineffective, and an actual infection with bacteria that necessitates antibiotics may occur only in the course of the disease. Therefore, antibiotics should only be used rarely and for a very specific reason so as to reduce the body's capability to become resistant.

Bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics
The use of antibiotics aims to curb the proliferation of bacteria. According to the Federal Office of Public Health, some of the billions of bacteria will invariably escape the effects of the medication. These can continue to proliferate and adapt over time in ways that render antibiotics completely useless. Becoming antibiotic-resistant therefore means that the bacteria can adapt to and withstand the antibiotic treatment. In other words, it's not the people but the bacteria that become resistant.

What should I do?

It’s important not to use antibiotics for every little thing, so as to reduce the body's capability to become resistant. Colds, flu and bladder inflammations hardly ever lead to serious complications and generally can be treated very effectively without antibiotics during the first few days. Furthermore, you can usually speed up the healing process by alleviating the symptoms with natural remedies and teas. Even in the case of a bladder inflammation, it makes sense to first try other remedies, unless the condition also involves back pain, fever or strong general discomfort. It's been proven that two thirds of such infections will fully heal in the first few days. In the case of infected wounds or animal bites, however, great care is called for because the inflammation is usually triggered by bacteria.

If the doctor prescribes antibiotics, you need to take them for as long as specified. Many patients stop taking antibiotics as soon as the symptoms subside, which can cause the less sensitive bacteria to survive and become resistant. We therefore recommend that you always first consult your doctor before you stop taking antibiotics.

Prevention is the best alternative
Reducing the use of antibiotics means paying closer attention to prevention. Measures to protect against infectious diseases include:
  • Vaccinations
  • Good hygiene (e.g. washing the hands regularly)
  • Healthy diet
  • Regular exercise/sport
For more information about antibiotics and antibiotic resistance, please go to the website of the Federal Office of Public Health.

As a SWICA customer, you can get expert advice from the doctors and medical staff at the sante24 health advice helpline – free of charge, around the clock. On request, sante24 can also make a doctor’s appointment for you. Phone +41 (0)44 404 86 86. You can also use the BENECURA medical app to carry out a digital SymptomCheck and receive recommendations about what to do next. You decide in each case whether you want to share the information you have entered in SymptomCheck with sante24.