HELENA – Safe use of medication is a national conversation with much of that being focused on responsible use of opioids, but the health community is tackling antibiotics as well.

St. Peter’s Health in Helena is looking at how these prescriptions can be used more effectively.

Being sick can be uncomfortable at best but getting an antibiotic for something that should be treated with an over the counter medication can cause even more damage.

“When they [antibiotics] are not used appropriately, it can cause more harm than good,” explained St. Peter’s Health Clinical Pharmacist Taylor Sandvick.

Courtesy: CDC
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The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention believes antibiotic resistance is a growing concern nationwide.

“So we know that over 50 percent of outpatient prescriptions are prescribed inappropriately,” added Sandvick, citing statistics from the CDC that say antibiotics are often prescribed when they are not necessary, with incorrect dosage or duration.

When antibiotics are prescribed without a real need, Sandvick said resistance becomes a serious problem.

“Certain bugs in our bodies can grow resistance to those antibiotics and that’s where we see those super bugs,” she said.

The CDC says over two million illnesses have been caused by these antibiotic resistances,

Courtesy: CDC

with 23,000 deaths caused by these resistances.

Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Don Skillman explained, “There’s a very complex ecosystem of bacteria in our bodies that maintain a good balance so that we stay healthy.” When you throw an antibiotic into that mixture it kills a lot of those organisms and that makes you susceptible to getting fungal infections or other viral infections or just a terrible syndrome like diarrhea.”

Usually antibiotics are used to treat bacterial, viral or fungal infections but unfortunately, not all viruses have an effective antibiotic.

“Many of the cold viruses for example we don’t have a good treatment for that in the form of an antimicrobial agent,” Skillman added.

Sandvick said she and others in the pharmacy division at St. Peter’s Health have created a viral prescription for providers to give to patients that explain the best over the counter medication based on their symptoms.

“Your body will get all better by itself but we can make you more comfortable,” Skillman explained.

The entire health community is working to make at least one thing known to everyone.

“Antibiotics are not benign and there are adverse effects to those,” Sandvick said.

It’s important to note that if you are experiencing symptoms for longer than a few days after taking over the counter medication, consult a health professional.