Antibiotics and similar drugs, together called antimicrobial agents, have been used for the past 70 years to treat patients who have infectious diseases. Since the 1940s, these drugs have greatly reduced illness and death from infectious diseases.
However, these drugs have been used so widely and for so long that the infectious organisms the antibiotics are designed to kill have adapted to them, making the drugs less effective.
Each year in the United States, at least 2 million people become infected with bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics, and at least 23,000 people die each year as a direct result of these infections. For those who don’t work in the medical field, this subject can be very confusing, and to some, it may not even seem to make sense.
How can an antibiotic not help cure an illness or disease? The main origin of resistance to antibiotics is their misuse.
For example, colds, flu, most sore throats and bronchitis are caused by viruses. Antibiotics do not help fight viruses.
Taking antibiotics when one has a virus may do more harm than good. Taking antibiotics when they are not needed increases the risk of getting an infection later that resists antibiotic treatment. One contributing factor is the high cost of health care and personal deductibles. However, going to another country and purchasing inexpensive, over-the-counter antibiotics for personal use to avoid paying for a visit to a local clinic, can end up being detrimental years down the line.
Giving leftover antibiotics to friends or family is also not a good idea.
One needs to also understand that different antibiotics treat different ailments. Penicillin, as an example, will not cure every illness.
It is more beneficial for you to go see a physician who will first decide whether one requires an antibiotic, but who can also give a precise diagnosis and a better targeted prescription.
A physician also knows that some antibiotics can interact with other drugs that you may be taking, making those drugs or the antibiotics less effective. Some drug combinations can worsen the side effects of the antibiotic or other drug.
Another very important step if one is given an antibiotic prescription is to take it as prescribed.
Inadequate use by the patient, not respecting either dosage or duration of the treatment, can mean that some of the bacteria may survive and become resistant. (You are going to start to feel better, but you need to finish that prescription.)  
There are multiple diseases that are becoming resistant. Urinary tract infections, pneumonia, skin infections, diarrhea, bloodstream infections, etc. Those are a few one might recognize. Then there is Clostridium Difficile, Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE), and Drug-resistant Neisseria gonorrhoeae, to name a few.
One doesn’t need to know the details of these, but know that they are urgent threats currently in the United States along with multiple serious and concerning threats listed on the CDC Web site.
Knowledge and prevention in many aspects is key. Efforts to prevent antibiotic resistance build on the foundation of proven public health strategies.
• 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.
• Prevent the spread of foodborne infections –  Cook to the right temperature, wash hands and surfaces often, refrigerate food promptly and don’t cross contaminate raw foods with ready to eat items.
• Prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases – Take control and learn effective strategies to reduce your risk.
• As stated previously, use antibiotics in the proper way – Taking antibiotics incorrectly or when they are not needed increases your risk.
• Feel better with symptom relief – Children and adults with viral infections, which antibiotics cannot treat, usually recover when the illness has run its course.
Over-the-counter medicines may help relieve some symptoms until then.
• 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. Don’t be afraid to ask or remind your healthcare provider to wash their hands.
  It is key to know also that it not your body that became resistant.
It’s the bacteria that did. Therefore, there is nothing we can change about our bodies that will overcome the resistance to antibiotics in the bacteria.
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 re-placements, organ transplants, cancer therapy, and treatment of chronic diseases such as diabetes, asthma, and 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.
 Antibiotics are a global common good. They belong to everyone, so what one person does affects the next one.
There is a need to do lot more to educate and raise public awareness around the problem of antibiotic resistance and the appropriate use of antibiotics, but the difficult truth is that we are all in this together. The pressure on doctors and nurses to prescribe antibiotics from the public can be intense and patient pressure to prescribe compounds the problem.
  It’s time that the public can all become “antibiotic guardians,” because the bottom line is that everyone is responsible for the future.