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pillsFall and the school year can bring an increase in colds and other respiratory ills for you and your kids. And when someone in the family is sick, it’s easy to call the doctor and beg for antibiotics. But beware. Every bug doesn’t need an antibiotic.

In fact, the overuse and improper use of antibiotics is the primary reason the medical and scientific communities have seen such an increase in drug-resistant bacteria, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports. Such resistance is especially concerning for children, who are prescribed antibiotics more than anyone else.

Antibiotics do nothing to knock out viruses. And viruses are what cause most common ailments – including a cold, running nose, flu, sore throat, bronchitis and many sinus and ear infections.  Antibiotics are needed to treat whooping cough, strep throat and urinary tract infections. But they won’t help you feel better from the vast majority of common respiratory infections – and they won’t keep you from spreading your virus to others.

The bigger picture is more concerning. The CDC reports that antibiotic resistance is “one of the world’s most pressing public health problems.” Why?

* Every time you take an antibiotic, sensitive bacteria are killed, but resistant ones can be left to multiply.

* When you overuse and misuse antibiotics, the usefulness of these important drugs is reduced.

* As a result, people with antibiotic resistance can suffer significantly from common infections that were once easily treated.

* When antibiotics don’t work, infections last longer. That means more trips to the doctor, longer hospital stays and the need to use more expensive and stronger medications that can have more side effects.

No one likes being sick. Just be sure you’re not taking an antibiotic for a virus – and increasing the chances you could be sicker down the road.

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