Be Aware of Antibiotics: Detailed Drug Literature Helps Effectiveness | Characteristics

Antibiotics save lives, but their overuse and abuse can put patients at unnecessary risk of preventable side effects and drug-resistant infections.

FirstHealth of the Carolinas will join other healthcare networks and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) from November 18-24 to participate in Antibiotic Awareness Week. The annual celebration places special emphasis on the appropriate use of antibiotics to combat the threat of antibiotic resistance.

FirstHealth takes a patient-centered approach to ensure the safe use of antibiotics in its hospitals and clinics. During Antibiotic Awareness Week, staff are particularly focused on improving the assessment and documentation of drug allergies to promote safe use of antibiotics for patients.

Overuse and misuse can occur when antibiotics are used to treat viral illnesses and when a broad spectrum antibiotic is used to treat an infection that could be treated with a narrower antibiotic. Detailed literature on drug allergies is helpful in prescribing the right antibiotic.

Heather Gibson, PharmD, an antimicrobial stewardship pharmacist at Moore Regional Hospital, says allergy profiles are often incomplete, with drug names listed but no type of reaction.

“We hope to take every opportunity to update and supplement these allergies, because when we don’t know what the reaction was to the antibiotic, sometimes doctors have to select a much larger antibiotic than necessary to treat the patient,” she says. “Selection for this broad-spectrum antibiotic may lead to an increased risk of Clostridioides difficile (C. diff), potentially requiring the use of IV rather than oral antibiotics and an increased risk of drug resistance. “

Antibiotic resistance is one of the most pressing threats to public health. When resistance occurs in patients, antibiotics may not be able to fight off the bacteria. Antibiotic-resistant infections can be difficult, if not impossible, to treat. According to the CDC, more than 2.8 million antibiotic-resistant infections occur in the United States each year, and more than 35,000 people die from them.

Jolena Allred, DNP, FNP-BC with FirstHealth Family Medicine, Seven Lakes, says documenting detailed information is imperative to avoid overuse of antibiotics in outpatient and hospital settings.

“Drug allergies need to be identified and documented,” she says. “Sometimes what’s listed as an allergy is actually a side effect. For example, about 10 percent of all American patients report having an allergic reaction to a penicillin, but less than 1 percent of the population has a true IgE-mediated penicillin allergy.

Allred created an education initiative for ambulatory care providers during Antibiotic Awareness Week. Named “Picking the KNOWS”, the campaign focuses on:

▪ Know the right medication

▪ Know the severity level of the reaction

▪ Know how to document in EPIC

Gibson has spearheaded the “Tell Me More” campaign for inpatient staff, which aims to ask patients about drug allergies and provide detailed documentation. The goal of these two initiatives is to help providers choose the most effective antibiotic and the safest for patients.

During American Antibiotic Awareness Week and throughout the year, the CDC strives to educate the public about when antibiotics are needed, when they are not, how to taking the antibiotics appropriately and about the potential side effects of the antibiotics.

The CDC advises patients that:

▪ Antibiotics do not treat viruses, such as those that cause colds, flu or COVID-19

▪ Antibiotics are only needed to treat some infections caused by bacteria, but even some bacterial infections get better without antibiotics. Antibiotics are not necessary for many sinus infections and some ear infections.

▪ An antibiotic will not make you feel better if you have a virus. Respiratory viruses usually go away within a week or two without treatment.

▪ If you need antibiotics, take them exactly as prescribed. Talk to your healthcare professional if you have any questions about your antibiotics.

▪ You should talk to your healthcare professional if you develop any side effects, especially severe diarrhea, as this could be a C. diff infection, which needs immediate treatment.

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