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Protecting Yourself and Your Family

Efforts to prevent antibiotic resistance build on the foundation of proven public health strategies. Use this page to learn how you can protect both you and your family from antibiotic-resistant infections.

Healthy Habits

Clean Your Hands

Cleaning your hands is like a "do-it-yourself" vaccine you can take to reduce the spread of diarrheal and respiratory illness so you can stay healthy. Regular hand cleaning, particularly before and after certain activities, is one of the best ways to remove germs, avoid getting sick, and prevent the spread of germs to others.

Stay Up-to-Date with Vaccines

Disease prevention is key to staying healthy. It is always better to prevent a disease than to treat it. Vaccines can protect both the people who receive them and those with whom they come in contact. Vaccines are responsible for the control of many infectious diseases that were once common in this country and around the world, including polio, measles, diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough), rubella (German measles), mumps, tetanus, and Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib). Over the years vaccines have prevented countless cases of infectious diseases and saved millions of lives.

Prevent the Spread of Food borne Infections 

Following these simple steps will help keep your family safer from food poisoning at home.

Keep Your Water Safe

Keeping your water safe and how you use your water can prevent infections from occurring.

Prevent the Spread of Sexually Transmitted Diseases 

Take control and learn effective strategies to reduce STD risk. Know the facts and protect yourself and your partner.  

Staying safe when sick

Use Antibiotics the Right Way

Are you aware that colds, flu, most sore throats, and bronchitis are caused by viruses? Did you know that antibiotics do not help fight viruses? It's true. Plus, 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.

Learn When Respiratory Illnesses Need Antibiotics

Antibiotics aren't always the answer for common respiratory infections.  Antibiotics do not fight infections caused by viruses like colds, most sore throats and bronchitis, and some ear infections. Unneeded antibiotics may lead to future antibiotic-resistant infections. Symptom relief might be the best treatment option.

Feel Better with Symptom Relief

Children and adults with viral infections, which antibiotics cannot treat, usually recover when the illness has run its course. Colds, a type of viral infection, can last for up to two weeks. You should keep your healthcare provider informed if your or your child’s illness gets worse or lasts longer than expected. Over-the-counter medicines may help relieve some symptoms.

Staying safe while in a hospital

Be a Safe Patient

Hospitals remain a source of many of the most resistant organisms, but there are several ways to protect yourself or a loved one:

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For more information, visit CDC’s Patient Safety page

Prevent Infections: Patient Admission Video

Don’t be afraid to ask your healthcare provider to clean their hands.  Watch this video to learn the importance of practicing hand hygiene while in the hospital, and how to ask or remind your healthcare providers to practice hand hygiene as well.

Staying safe while travelling

CDC’s Travelers’ Health is dedicated to helping travelers and their clinicians prevent illness and injury during international travel.  For information related to your travel destination, including needed vaccines and updated travel health notices, visit Travelers’ Health

High Risk Groups

People at Especially High Risk

As resistance grows, the antibiotics used to treat infections do not work as well or at all.  The loss of effective antibiotic treatments will not only cripple the ability to fight routine infectious disease but will also undermine treatment of infectious complications in patients with other disease.  Many of the advances in medical treatment – joint replacements, organ transplants, cancer therapy, and treatment of chronic diseases such as diabetes, asthma, rheumatoid arthritis – are dependent on the ability to fight infections with antibiotics.  If that ability is lost, the ability to safely offer people many life-saving and life-improving modern medical advantages will be lost with it.  For example:

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For specific information on preventing infections in patients receiving chemotherapy, visit CDC’s Preventing Infections in Cancer Patients

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Antibiotic Safety and Adverse Effects

Antibiotic Safety

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  • Antibiotics are powerful drugs that are generally safe and very helpful in fighting disease, but there are times when antibiotics can actually be harmful.
  • Antibiotics can have side effects, including allergic reactions and a potentially deadly diarrhea caused by the bacteria Clostridium difficile (C. diff). Antibiotics can also interfere with the action of other drugs a patient may be taking for another condition.  These unintended reactions to antibiotics are called adverse drug events.
  • When someone takes an antibiotic that they do not need, they are needlessly exposed to the side effects of the drug and do not get any benefit from it.
  • Moreover, taking an antibiotic when it is not needed can lead to the development of antibiotic resistance.  When resistance develops, antibiotics may not be able to stop future infections.  Every time someone takes an antibiotic they don’t need, they increase their risk of developing a resistant infection in the future.

Types of Adverse Drug Events Related to Antibiotics

  • Allergic Reactions
    Every year, there are more than 140,000 emergency department visits for reactions to antibiotics.  Almost four out of five (79%) emergency department visits for antibiotic-related adverse drug events are due to an allergic reaction.  These reactions can range from mild rashes and itching to serious blistering skin reactions swelling of the face and throat, and breathing problems.  Minimizing unnecessary antibiotic use is the best way to reduce the risk of adverse drug events from antibiotics.  Patients should tell their doctors about any past drug reactions or allergies.
  • C. difficile
    C. difficile causes diarrhea linked to at least 14,000 American deaths each year.  When a person takes antibiotics, good bacteria that protect against infection are destroyed for several months.  During this time, patients can get sick from C. difficile picked up from contaminated surfaces or spread from a healthcare provider’s hands.  Those most at risk are people, especially older adults, who take antibiotics and also get medical care.  Take antibiotics exactly and only as prescribed.
  • Drug Interactions and Side Effects
    Antibiotics can interact with other drugs patients take, making those drugs or the antibiotics less effective.  Some drug combinations can worsen the side effects of the antibiotic or other drug.  Common side effects of antibiotics include nausea, diarrhea, and stomach pain.  Sometimes these symptoms can lead to dehydration and other problems.  Patients should ask their doctors about drug interactions and the potential side effects of antibiotics.  The doctor should be told immediately if a patient has any side effects from antibiotics.