Public health: Stop asking for unnecessary antibiotics

Clark County Public Health recently put out a friendly reminder: Antibiotics won’t help you if you have the cold or flu.

That’s because antibiotics kill bacteria, not viruses (like influenza, for example).

In other words: Stop asking your doctor for antibiotics when you don’t need them.

“Taking antibiotics when you have a virus may do more harm than good,” said Dr. Alan Melnick, Clark County health officer, in a news release. “Taking antibiotics when they are not needed increases your risk of later getting an infection that resists antibiotic treatment.”

Using antibiotics appropriately – like, when you have a bacterial infection – helps prevent antibiotic resistance, which is one of the world’s more pressing public health threats.

Antibiotic resistance can cause danger and suffering – even death – for people who have common infections that were once easily treatable. When antibiotics fail to work, the result is longer-lasting illnesses, more doctor visits or extended hospital stays, and more expensive and toxic medications, according to public health.

“Alarmingly, we are facing the end of the antibiotic era because antibiotics are being inappropriately prescribed and used, which contributes to antibiotic resistance,” said Dr. Lauri Hicks, director of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Office of Antibiotic Stewardship, in the news release. “That’s why it is crucial that antibiotics are used only when absolutely necessary, and when they are needed, the correct antibiotic must be prescribed in a timely manner at the right dose and duration.”

Public health offers these tips for appropriate antibiotic use:

-Do not demand antibiotics when a doctor says they are not needed because they will not help treat your infection.

-Do not take an antibiotic for a viral infection (cold or flu).

-When you’re prescribed an antibiotic, take it exactly as prescribed without skipping doses – even if you’re feeling better. Stopping treatment too soon may allow some bacteria to survive and reinfect you (and build resistance to the drug).

-Never save antibiotics for future illnesses.

-Do not take antibiotics prescribed for someone else. The antibiotic may not be appropriate for your illness.

-Talk to you physician about antibiotic resistance.

Marissa Harshman

Marissa Harshman

I'm the health reporter for The Columbian newspaper in Vancouver, Wash. I started at The Columbian -- my hometown newspaper -- in September 2009. Reach me at or 360-735-4546.

Scroll to top