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Does My Elderly Really Need Antibiotics?

Pills Viral Disease Spilled From Bottle (1)

Everybody must be cautious in taking antibiotics. This is especially true when you are looking after elderly patients. We often see some of the older adults’ medications containing antibiotics.

While antibiotics can be life-saving in many instances, they can cause adverse effects when inappropriately used.

A study has proven that adults beyond 50 years of age are aware of the dangers of misusing antibiotics. However, many still use antibiotics to treat viral illnesses, such as colds. Antibiotics are intended for conditions caused by bacteria, making them improper when taken by people suffering from sicknesses due to other causes.

What are Antibiotics?

Antibiotics are prescribed medications that doctors typically give for infections caused by bacteria. Antibiotics work by keeping the bacteria from reproducing or copying themselves, while some antibiotics are effective in killing them off.

Against life is the literal meaning of antibiotic. So technically, an antibiotic is anything capable of eliminating the germs in your body.

However, over the years, more people have used the term antibiotics to refer to any medicine capable of killing bacteria.

Antibiotics are considered a miracle drug in the health industry. Before they were discovered in the 1920s, surgery was risky, and people died from strep throat and other minor bacterial infections.

The introduction of antibiotics in the 1940s led to more people surviving deadly infections, safer surgeries, and longer life expectancies.

Why Are Antibiotics Prescribed?

Before giving an elderly any medication with antibiotics, you have to ensure that bacteria cause the infections. Antibiotics cannot cure viral illnesses, such as stomach flu, most types of sore throats, certain bronchitis infections, most coughs, flu, and the common cold.

Your doctor can prescribe the right antiviral medicines in these cases or advise you to rest until you’re feeling better.

Why are antibiotics prescribed? There are many infections whose causes are difficult to determine. You have to see your doctor check if it’s bacterial or viral.

Only then would you know what to take to cure the infections. Despite being told that you must take an antibiotic, you still have to know which type.

There are antibiotics known as narrow-spectrum and broad-spectrum. Narrow-spectrum antibiotics target specific bacteria. On the other hand, broad-spectrum antibiotics can help cure many types of bacteria.

Antibiotics can have side effects, depending on what type and the infection you’re dealing with. Your gut is loaded with bacteria (good and bad). Many people experience side effects when taking antibiotics since the medicine affects the digestive system while dealing with the infection.

Here are some of the side effects caused by taking OTC or antibiotic prescription:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Abdominal pain
  • Indigestion of bloating
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

You may also experience other uncommon side effects, such as:

  • Having trouble breathing
  • Wheezing
  • Coughing
  • Skin rash or hives
  • Chest pain

These symptoms could mean that you’re allergic to the antibiotic. It is also essential to note that antibiotics may keep the other medications you’re taking from working.

This is why it is best to check with your doctor to be sure and safe regardless of what you intend to treat with the antibiotic.

Are Antibiotics and Antibiotic Prescriptions Necessary?

You will learn more about the importance of antibiotics when working in a nursing agency and dealing with elderly individuals.

According to a recent study, three out of four elderly people aged 65 and up get unnecessary antibiotic prescriptions. In particular, the study’s author, Eric Young from the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio, said that Hispanic or Latin and Black patients might be getting antibiotic prescriptions even when unnecessary, leading to improper treatment.

Young added that results suggest that the risk is higher for older patients, especially those in nursing homes or receiving primary care. These patients who get unneeded antibiotic treatment or improper antibiotic use expose themselves to risks of adverse effects.

The negative outcomes of taking antibiotics when not needed or improper antibiotic prescribing, especially in older adults, include poorer life quality, severe drug events, and risks of frequent hospitalization.

Antibiotics are necessary for treating bacterial infections. However, they expose patients to higher risks of suffering from side effects when given even without determining the real cause of the infectious disease.

Young said the study did not determine why people get antibiotics even when these are unnecessary. He only suggested that maybe, some physicians offer antibiotic prescription to patients whose symptoms are likely to lead to infectious diseases.

It commonly happens when physicians check on patients who don’t go to their routine checkups or those who are unlikely to return for a follow-up checkup.

How Can Antibiotics Help Young and Elderly Patients?

The human body is home to many bacteria, most of which are harmless, and some are even considered helpful. However, some bacteria can lead to deadly infectious diseases, which you can recover from with the help of proper antibiotic use.

Urinary Tract Infections, Blood Problems, and Other Diseases that Recommend Antibiotics for Elders as Treatment

Here are some of the infections or infectious diseases that proper antibiotic use can help cure:

  • Urinary tract infection
  • Skin disease
  • Dental concerns
  • Sinus problems
  • Ear problems
  • Swelling of the spinal cord and brain or meningitis
  • Clostridium difficile infection
  • Severe coughing
  • Bacterial pneumonia
  • Kidney problems
  • Bladder problems
  • Strep throat
  • Bloodstream infections
  • Lower respiratory tract infections

The antibiotics for the said illnesses and infectious diseases are often clinically prescribed. However, you can avail some antibiotics OTC without a prescription.

Never take or have your patient take inappropriate antibiotic or antibiotics prescribed without their doctor’s permission. Inappropriate antibiotic use may lead to severe bloodstream infections, urinary tract infection, co morbidities, and worse results.

Before taking an OTC antibiotic without having a health professional check what’s wrong with you, it may help to learn more about why most antibiotics need a prescription.

The Risk of Antibiotic Resistance

Taking antibiotics without antibiotic prescribing is an unhealthy practice. Antibiotics are effective in fighting germs but only when used safely and carefully.

Overuse of the drug can result in antibiotic resistance. It happens when bacteria become immune to the medication and become superbugs or super bacteria.

When this happens, there is a higher risk for a patient to suffer longer. This is because the bacteria causing their disease can no longer be cured by medicines. The body has become immune to the antibiotics that they no longer work even when you increase the dosage.

Be Smart in Using Antibiotic Prescription

Antibiotics are powerful drugs. They can help treat bacterial infections, but you can’t misuse them.

You have to be smart in using antibiotics for the meds to slow the spread of bacteria in your system effectively.

Here are the proper ways of using antibiotics:

  • Listen to your doctor

Get a doctor’s prescription to be certain you have a bacterial infection.

  • Do not take antibiotics for any infections

You have to be certain that your infection is caused by bacteria and not viruses before you can take antibiotics.

  • Follow the doses according to your doctor’s prescription

Your doctor will tell you the doses and how often you should take the prescribed antibiotics.

  • Take the antibiotics as directed

If the doctor says you have to take the meds for seven days, don’t stop taking them on the fourth or fifth day, even when you’re already feeling better. Make sure you don’t skip doses or take the meds later than your doctor recommended.

The Best Way to Prevent Diseases

Whether you are into home nursing services Singapore or caring for elderly patients at home, the best way to keep them healthy is by preventing the diseases. You can help them achieve a healthier body by taking care of them and ensuring they are doing the following regimen:

  • Keeping the body fit and the mind active

You have to engage your elderly patients in physical activities that are safe for them. They need to exercise their muscles and joints to slow down their degradation.

You also have to help them exercise their minds. You can do this by engaging them in conversations, reading to them, or giving them puzzles and other activities that will make them think.

  • Giving them healthy foods and veggies

You must supply your elderly patients with foods necessary for their age and health condition.

  • Support community

Elderly patients need to feel the warmth of a family, which they can get when they have a supportive community. If they live in a nursing home, ensure that your patient gets along well with the other patients and all the nurses caring for them.

  • Bring them to regular checkups

Even when you provide proper assistance to your elderly patients, it is still necessary to have them checked by their doctors regularly. Only their doctors can describe the right medications or change the doses when needed.

  • Teach them to be mindful of their routines

The older you get, the more mindful you have to be of your daily routine. This will exercise your mind as you keep your body fit and healthy.

You have to remember that we are what we eat, and we become what our habits are. We may not realize this while young, but you will know once you hit old age how important it is to develop healthy routines early on.

Final words

While antibiotics can help treat bacterial infections in elderly patients, you must be careful when giving them any medications. When working in healthcare for elderly in Singapore, ensure that your patients’ medications do not contain unneeded antibiotics.

Your patient’s health will be at risk when given antibiotics when not needed. To be safe, help them live a quality life by ensuring they eat right and get proper and regular exercise.

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