There are about 154 million prescriptions written for antibiotics every single year for antibiotics.
It's estimated that about 30% of those are unnecessary.
The unnecessary prescriptions are typically written for common colds, viral sore throats, bronchitis, and sinus and ear infections; none of which respond to antibiotics.
The 47 million needless prescriptions each year are putting patients at unnecessary risk for other health issues.
Scientists have warned for decades that antibiotic overuse will lead to the development of drug-resistant bacteria, making it even harder to fight infectious disease.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that drug-resistant bacteria cause 23,000 deaths along with two million illnesses annually.
Those statistics alone are enough to make you think twice next time your doctor prescribes you an antibiotic.
But did you know that antibiotic overuse can cause allergies as well?
New research is beginning to shine the light on antibiotics leading to allergies, especially in children.
In the article below, we will take a look at the link between antibiotics and childhood allergies.
- Allergies Are Becoming All Too Common
- Antibiotics Can Disturb The Gut Microbiome
- Will An Increase In Microbes Result In Fewer Allergies?
- Why Are We Overusing Antibiotics?
- The Overuse of Antibiotics Needs To Be Addressed
In the past 20 to 30 years, allergists have noticed a dramatic increase in the prevalence of allergies.
The American Academy of Asthma, Allergy, and Immunology is reporting that around 40%-50% of school children are sensitive to at least one allergy.
The most common of these allergies are skin allergies like eczema, respiratory allergies like asthma and rhinitis, and food allergies such as those to peanuts.
This isn't just happening in the United States, either. Other industrialized countries are noticing it as well.
The rise goes hand in hand with the increased use of antibiotics, particularly in children for common viral infections such as colds and sore throats.
Recent studies are showing that they may be connected.
So why exactly are antibiotics, whose sole purpose is to fight harmful bacteria, suddenly making people more susceptible to an allergy?
Antibiotics fight infections, but they also reduce the healthy bacteria in our gastrointestinal system, the so-called gut microbiome.
Because of the relationship between gut bacteria and the normal equilibrium of cells in our immune systems, the gut microbiome plays a vital role in the maturation of the immune response.
When the bacteria and immune cells don't interact, the immune systems respond inappropriately to innocuous substances, such as food or dust.
This results in the development of allergies, some of which can turn fatal.
Exposure to the microbes at an early age is important for the maturation of our immune systems.
Reducing the microbes due to antibiotics may make us feel healthier, but our immune systems will likely suffer.
Research studies conducted in Europe have found that children who grew up on farms have a wider diversity of microbes in their gut.
They were also found to have up to a 70% reduced rate of allergies and asthma compared to children who were not raised on farms.
This is due to the exposure to such a wide range of microbes allowing our immune systems to undergo balanced maturation, thus providing protection against inappropriate immune responses.
While we attempt to prevent infections, we may also be setting the stage for our children to develop life-altering allergies and asthma.
A study in 2005 found that infants exposed to antibiotics in the first 4-6 months of their life have up to 5 times greater risk of developing allergies.
Infants with reduced bacterial diversity, which can occur with antibiotic use, have increased risk of developing eczema.
And, it's not just the antibiotics that the infants are given.
The antibiotics the mothers take can also make a difference.
The Copenhagen Prospective Study on Asthma in Childhood Cohort found that children whose mothers took antibiotics during pregnancy were almost twice as likely to develop asthma.
If we are aware of the potential risks of overusing antibiotics, then why are we doing it?
It seems that a relatively small number of physicians are driving overprescription of antibiotics.
A recent study of physician prescribing practices found that 10% of physicians prescribed antibiotics to 95% of their patients with upper respiratory tract infections.
Health care professionals need to worry about the creation of antibiotic resistance, as well as about the fact that we may be creating another health problem in our patients and their children.
Parents need to be careful about asking their doctors for antibiotics in an attempt to treat their children's common colds and sore throats.
The viral infections that cause them don't respond to antibiotics anyway.
Doctors should also think twice before prescribing antibiotics to treat these illnesses as well.
As antibiotic resistance becomes a more significant problem, there is a desperate need to develop new antibiotics.
The time needed to develop new antibiotics is significant, taking up to 10 years, and drug companies have repeatedly neglected this area of drug development.
Congress has recognized antibiotic overuse is a major problem and has passed the 21st Century Cures bill.
The bill includes provisions that would create payment incentives from Medicare for hospitals that use new antibiotics.
However, this approach could increase the use of any new antibiotics without regard to whether bacterial resistance has developed.
This would worsen the problem of resistance and could lead to even more children developing allergies.
While it's a step in the right direction, congress should also address the core problem of antibiotic overuse.
This will curb the development of antibiotic resistance, and reduce the trend of increasing development of allergies.
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