The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

    The cons of antibiotics

    Renee Rosenow

    As the cold and flu season continues to bloom around campus, I find it is necessary to talk about antibiotics and our abusive relationship with them. Americans are notoriously impatient and have a common desire to solve problems as quick as possible.

    However, this type of thinking does not always translate into good health habits. I’m sure many of us have relatives or roommates who swear by the waterless antibacterial hand sanitizer or the new and improved antibacterial window cleaning agent and who are always looking to prevent the next sickness. Some of us may even know somebody who owns one of those nifty vacuum cleaners with the antibacterial ultraviolet light affixed to its underside to sanitize while in use.

    The use and promotion of antibacterial household products is driven by the fear of getting sick or even just the fear of germs themselves. We should ask each other if this is rational.

    Well, to some extent it is perfectly fine to use antibacterial sprays when cleaning up after cooking poultry or when you actually have a serious bacterial infection. But we have to remember that bacteria are essential for a healthy body. This may sound strange, but many of our body’s systems rely on bacteria to perform their tasks. If we take antibiotics carelessly we can make ourselves more susceptible to illness.

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    Also, we need to know when to take antibiotics as they are not effective in combating a viral infection or one of the fungal varieties. If you were to take an antibiotic for these types of infections, you would not resolve the problem, you would just weaken your body’s defenses against another illness.

    We often hear the term, “Kills 99.9% of bacteria.” Well, have you ever wondered about the other .1%? This special portion of the previous population is resistant to the antibiotic material used in the sanitizing substance. These bacteria have been given the informal name of a “Super Bug.” Super bugs are multi-resistant bacteria that are resistant to the antibodies that are specifically designed to exterminate said bacteria. These remaining bugs are free to roam and multiply.

    One type of infection that occurs due to this over exposure or abuse of antibiotics is the Methicillan-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus, or MRSA for short. This infectious strain often rears in hospitals and even schools.

    According to Medical News Today, in the past decade the rate of MRSA infection related deaths has risen by 1,400 percent. In 2005, approximately 19,000 deaths were linked to MRSA infections and it is estimated that nearly 90,000 people in the United States may be infected by the Super Bug. These rates will only be accelerated as we continue to socially mistreat and over treat our fears of getting sick.

    So, this being said, I would like to take this chance to offer some suggestions for maintaining a healthy, bacteria-friendly immune system. The first thing you can do is reduce the amount of antibacterial soap and aerosols you use but continue to use soap for basic hygiene purposes.

    Secondly, make sure we have properly diagnosed our symptoms so as to not mistreat our infections causing further illnesses.

    And finally, we need to refrain from the use of antibiotics unless absolutely necessary. In this situation, take the full course of antibiotics in order to kill the malicious bacteria more entirely to prevent the reoccurrence of the infection later on.

    By following these very broad guidelines, we can maintain healthy, properly functioning and ultimately strengthen, our immune systems.

    Thompson is a sophomore environmental public health major and columnist for The Spectator. This column appears biweekly.

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