The Importance of Correct Antibiotic Usage

In the U.S., more than 2.8 million antimicrobial-resistant infections occur each year, and more than 35,000 people die as a result. North Dakota Health and Human Services (HHS) is highlighting the importance of appropriate antibiotic prescription and use while fighting antibiotic resistance.

What is antimicrobial resistance?

Antimicrobial resistance happens when germs, like bacteria and fungi, develop the ability to defeat the drugs designed to kill them. That means the germs are not killed and continue to grow.

Antibiotics and antifungals have been instrumental in fighting life-threatening infections. Unfortunately, we are in an era where organisms have become resistant to antibiotics and antifungals at a much faster rate than we are developing antibiotics.

Resistant infections can lead to increased medical costs, extended hospital stays and preventable deaths. It is important to quickly identify infections to prevent spread. Combating antibiotic resistance requires appropriate prescribing and use. Everyone has a role.

“The message is not ‘don’t take antibiotics,’” said Faye Salzer, HHS Antibiotic Stewardship Coordinator. “Antibiotics save lives, but we need to be smart about how we use them. Don’t pressure your provider into giving you a prescription if they don’t think they are going to help.”

Antibiotics are critical tools for treating several common and more serious infections, like those that can lead to sepsis. When a patient needs antibiotics, the benefits outweigh the risks of side effects and antibiotic resistance.

  • Antibiotics do NOT treat viruses, like those that cause colds, flu or some bronchial infections.
  • Antibiotics are only needed for treating certain infections caused by bacteria, but even some bacterial infections get better without antibiotics.
  • An antibiotic will not make you feel better if you have a virus. Respiratory viruses usually go away in a week or two without treatment. Ask your health care provider for suggestions for things you can do at home to relieve symptoms and products you can get over the counter to feel better while your body fights off the virus.

If you need antibiotics, take them exactly as prescribed. Talk with your health care provider if you have any questions about your antibiotics. Don’t stop taking them if you feel better, unless told to by your provider. Do not take saved antibiotics the next time you don’t feel well.

Always talk with your provider if you develop side effects, especially severe diarrhea, as this could be Clostridioides difficile (C. difficile or C. diff) infection, which needs to be treated immediately.

Everyone can help improve antibiotic prescribing and use which will help keep us healthy now, fight antibiotic resistance and ensure that life-saving antibiotics will be available in the future.

 Do your best to stay healthy and keep others healthy. This helps reduce antibiotic use and fights antimicrobial resistance:

  • Clean your hands by washing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or using a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue
  • Stay at home when sick
  • Avoid touching your face
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick
  • Get recommended immunizations, such as the flu and COVID-19 vaccines
  • If you need antibiotics, take them exactly as prescribed


Messages for Patients – Be Antibiotics Aware Partner Toolkit | Antibiotic Use | CDC