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Get Smart About Antibiotics

Antibiotics are powerful tools for fighting illness, but overuse of antibiotics has helped create new strains of infectious diseases.  Infections caused by resistant bacteria have become more common, and many bacteria have become resistant to multiple antibiotics.  Antibiotic resistance is one of the world's most pressing public health threats.

Each year more than two million people in the United States get infections that are resistant to antibiotics and at least 23,000 people die as a result.

Get Smart, Know When Antibiotics Work

Antibiotics cure bacterial infections, not viral infections such as:

  • Colds or flu;
  • Most coughs and bronchitis;
  • Sore throats not caused by strep; or
  • Runny noses.

Taking antibiotics when you have a virus may do more harm than good. Taking antibiotics when they are not needed increases your risk of getting an infection later that resists antibiotic treatment.

Get smart, read the chart! Click here to learn which common illnesses are usually viral or bacterial and when antibiotics are necessary

What You Can Do To Protect Yourself and Your Family

  • Take the antibiotic exactly as the doctor prescribes. Never skip doses or stop taking an antibiotic early unless your doctor tells you to do so.

  • Only take antibiotics prescribed for you; do not share or use leftover antibiotics. Antibiotics treat specific types of infections. Taking the wrong medicine may delay correct treatment and allow bacteria to multiply.

  • Do not save antibiotics for the next illness. Discard any leftover medication once the prescribed course of treatment is completed.

  • Prevent infections by practicing good hand hygiene and getting recommended vaccines.

  • Do not ask for antibiotics when your doctor thinks you do not need them. Remember antibiotics have side effects. When your doctor says you don't need an antibiotic, taking one may do more harm than good.

Test Your Smarts

Test your antibiotic knowledge by taking CDC's Get Smart quiz. Click here to start quiz.

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