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Protecting Yourself and Your Family

An infection occurs when germs enter our body, increase in number, and cause a reaction. Infections caused by antibiotic-resistant germs are difficult, and sometimes impossible, to treat.

No one can completely avoid getting an infection, including antibiotic-resistant infections, but some people are at greater risk than others. When possible, take action to avoid getting an infection in the first place to help protect you and your family from harmful germs.

Know Your Risk and Take Care

Talk to your healthcare provider about your risk for certain infections, especially if you do not have vaccinations or have a weakened immune system. Everyone should keep scrapes and wounds clean, and take good care of chronic conditions.

Ask Questions and Speak Up

Talk to your healthcare providers about questions or worries you have. For example, at a doctor’s office:

  • What can I do to prevent infections?
  • What do I need to know about the antibiotics you’re prescribing?

Or at a healthcare facility, like a hospital or nursing home:

  • What do you do to prevent infections?
  • What test will be done to make sure I’m getting the right antibiotic?
  • What are you doing to prevent a drug-resistant or C. difficile (life-threatening diarrhea) infection?
  • Do I still need my medical device (for example, catheter)?

Also ask your healthcare provider about cleaning their hands before touching you, such as:

  • “Would you mind cleaning your hands before you examine me?”
  • “I’m worried about germs. Will you please clean your hands once more before you start my treatment?”

Clean Your Hands

Regular hand cleaning is one of the best ways to remove germs, avoid getting sick, and prevent spreading germs. This video explains how washing your hands can fight germs that get on our hands every day.

Recognize Early Symptoms of Infection

Tell your doctor if you think you have an infection, or if your infection is not getting better or is getting worse. Some infections, like skin infections, appear as redness, pain, or drainage at an IV catheter site or surgery site. Symptoms of a C. difficile infection include severe diarrhea, loss of appetite, abdominal pain/tenderness, and nausea. Often these symptoms come with a fever.

Use Antibiotics the Right Way

Antibiotics save lives, but any time antibiotics are used in people or animals, they can lead to antibiotic resistance. Learn more about using antibiotics, including when they are needed and when they are not.

Remember Pets Share Germs

Sometimes animals, including pets, carry germs that can make people sick. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after:

  • Touching animals or anywhere animals live
  • Handling pet food
  • Cleaning up after pets or livestock

Learn more about pets and antibiotic resistance.

Sepsis is a medical emergency. Sepsis is the body’s life-threatening response to an infection. Visit Get Ahead of Sepsis for more information on how you can protect yourself.

What is resistant—my body or the germ? Antibiotic resistance does not mean our body is resistant to antibiotics; it means that the bacteria or fungus are resistant to the antibiotics designed to kill them.

Get Vaccinated

Vaccination is one of the best ways to prevent illnesses. Every year, thousands of Americans get sick from diseases that could be prevented by vaccines. Talk to your child’s healthcare provider about recommended vaccines, and learn more about vaccines recommended for all ages.

Prepare Food Safely

Bacteria in food can make you sick, and these infections can be caused by drug-resistant germs. Learn about food safety and follow four simple steps at home—clean, separate, cook, and chill—to help protect you and your family from foodborne infections.

Protect Yourself from Gonorrhea

Gonorrhea, a common sexually transmitted disease (STD), is becoming harder to treat due to increasing drug resistance. If you are diagnosed with gonorrhea and your symptoms continue for more than a few days after receiving treatment, then return to a healthcare provider to be checked again. Learn effective strategies to reduce STD risk for yourself and your partner.

Drug resistance related to viruses such as HIV are not included on this website. 

Stay Healthy when Travelling Abroad

Visit CDC’s Travelers’ Health website for:

  • Vaccines you may need
  • Health alerts at your destination
  • Planning in advance if you get sick or injured abroad

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