What can I do to prevent spread of drug resistant bacteria?

Lisa Dumkow, PharmD
Pharmacy Specialist

Consumers are an important part of the solution to preventing the spread of drug resistant bacteria and ending overuse of antibiotics. You can do the following:

  • Be patient when your provider says that you have a virus that needs to run its course. Prescribing an antibiotic won't make you healthier sooner.
  • Don't be afraid to ask your provider if an antibiotic is necessary and what the shortest time is that you can take it.
  • If you are prescribed an antibiotic, follow all of the instructions.
  • Do not share your medications with others or take it for your next infection. They are prescribed for your unique situation and not all antibiotics treat every type of infection.
  • Let your provider know if you are allergic to any medications, including penicillin, and what the reaction was.
  • Dispose of unused/expired medications properly. Do not keep them.
Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiologist (Heart Specialist)

A few things you can do to prevent spread of drug resistant bacteria are:

  • Learn the difference between a bacterial and viral infection. Antibiotics only work on bacteria. Period. They do not work on viruses. Ever. So if you have a cold, flu, bronchitis, a runny nose or a sore throat (unless it is strep throat), taking antibiotics will not make you feel better, cure the disease or prevent others from catching it.
  • Do not insist your doctor give you a prescription for an antibiotic. Patients have come to expect that if they go to the doctor, they should leave with a prescription. Believe it or not, doctors feel pressured by patients into writing antibiotic prescriptions whenever a patient asks for one. Avoid the temptation to ask for a prescription if it is not medically indicated. Instead, ask what you can do to feel better without taking antibiotics. Conversely, if your healthcare provider offers you an antibiotic, ask if it absolutely necessary.
  • Take antibiotics properly as prescribed. Only take antibiotics prescribed to you specifically and follow the directions carefully. Do not skip any doses and take the full course even if you start feeling better. Stopping prematurely can cause the infection to roar back, which will require more antibiotics that might not work as well. Throw out leftover antibiotics and do not save them for the next time you are sick. Never share antibiotics with anyone else.
  • Prevent infections from spreading. Wash your hands frequently and correctly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use a hand sanitizer if water is not available. If you are in the hospital, make sure anyone entering your room washes his or her hands, and speak up to remind them if they don't, even if it is your doctor! If you must be in the hospital, get out as soon as you are able.
  • Demand better legislation to avoid a public health crisis. Since there is little incentive for pharmaceutical companies to engage in new antibiotic discovery, it is imperative that the government enact stronger legislation to keep antibiotic development robust. You can become an advocate for better antibiotic legislation by writing to your local and state representatives and senators. 

This content originally appeared on

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.