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When Nurses Should Resist Using Antibiotics to Treat Illnesses

Higher Education Articles August 22, 2013

For those in the medical profession, such as a nurse antibiotic who truly revolutionized medicine; unfortunately, it is quickly becoming necessary to reduce the use of these life saving drugs. When they first came on the scene, health care providers could treat many illnesses that were once extremely deadly for the first time. Sadly, today the world is hearing about an entirely new kind of danger, so called ‘superbugs’ that are common especially in hospitals. These bugs are described as bacteria that do not respond to traditional antibiotics. It is suspected that these superbugs have come about because of the overuse of antibiotics within the medical field, which has encouraged the mutation and evolution of the bacteria to resist the drugs. In an effort to prevent the further spread of antibacterial resistant bugs, there are instances where nurses should not advise the use of antibiotics. Here is an overview for nurses looking for answers about when and when not to use drugs.

When a Patient Presents with Common Colds or the Flu

Most people, especially children, seek medical assistance for common viral conditions such as a cold or the flu. What most people may not realize, however, is that these conditions are actually caused by viruses, not bacteria. Therefore, antibiotics will be useless against the actual germ causing the illness. It is natural to want to help a person suffering from an illness, but antibiotics will not help, and can make the problem worse. Antibiotics will only fight the bacteria in the patient’s body, which will not help them get better. Since the bacteria in the body do not need to be fought, the health care provider is unnecessarily setting up a perfect environment for the bacteria to mutate into superbugs, which are much more dangerous. Patients with viral infections should have their symptoms treated as necessary, for example, an IV when needed for dehydration, but otherwise allow their body to fight the virus.

Patients who Have Pharyngitis

Patients who are presented with this illness should be carefully evaluated to be sure that they would benefit from antibiotic use. While most adult cases of the illness are caused by Group A beta hemolytic streptococcus, it is not the cause of all illnesses. Patients should be evaluated based upon their history of fever, their tonsillar exudates, cough and anterior cervical lymphadenopathy. Those with GABHS will have a fever, tonsillar exudates, no cough, and tender anterior cervical lymphadenopathy. Those with none or only one of these four symptoms should be presumed to not have GABHS. Individuals with two or more of the symptoms should be tested with a rapid antigen test. Only those with positive tests should be given antibiotics. Individuals without this specific infection should recover well with only supportive care to help their body naturally fight the infection.

Patients with Rhinosinusitis or Bronchitis

Both of these illnesses are typically caused by viruses. In rhinosinusitis, it is typically another symptom of a viral upper respiratory tract infection. A doctor or nurse should hold off on considering a particular infection bacterial until it has lasted for at least seven days and the patient complains of maxillary facial or tooth pain or tenderness along with a great amount of nasal secretions. Even bacterial rhinosinusitis typically resolves without antibiotic treatment, and health care providers should stick largely with treating individual symptoms. Those with moderate to severe bacterial infections can be considered for antibacterial treatment on a case by case basis.

Bronchitis should be treated with antibiotics extremely rarely, even if the cough has lasted for quite a while. Health care providers should instead focus on ruling out pneumonia and pertussis in the face of severe symptoms.

Using antibiotics wisely is important for both treating disease and slowly down the creation of bacteria that can end up being resistant to most medications. For nurses this often means careful evaluation of the patient’s condition, so an accurate call can be made about whether antibiotics would actually benefit in this particular case. While antibiotics have been a huge asset to those who practice medicine, taking the time to reduce the use of particular medications should help make everyone healthier in the long run.

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