Staying Safe from Antibiotic Resistant Infections
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Staying Safe from Antibiotic Resistant Infections

Antibiotic resistant bacteria are everywhere. Taking these simple precautions can help ensure that you do not become infected by them.

Antibiotic resistant bacteria are everywhere.  Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is found in the sand on beaches. Over 70% of Escherichia coli are resistant to penicillin.  It seems like there is no escape.  Antibiotics used to be a sure way of recovering from bacterial infections, whereas now, even urinary tract infections can be lethal.  A renewed sense of fear about bacterial pathogens has spurred the marketing of antibacterial soaps, hand sanitizers and detergents.  However those may actually do more harm than good by killing off our normal microbial skin flora and letting resistant bacteria take their place.  There are several things we can do however, to help keep ourselves safe.

1. Avoid close body contact with people who may be infected by antibiotic resistant pathogens.

It may seem obvious that sex is indiscriminate sex is dangerous, but I know many people who are afraid of public toilet seats, and who have promiscuous intercourse.  This is one of the riskiest things a person can do.  Neisseria gonnorhoeae, the causative agent of gonorrhea, rapidly becomes resistant to antibiotics, and it can be difficult to cure.  According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are gonorrhea strains that are resistant to penicillins, tetracyclines, spectinomycin, and fluoroquinolones.  That list includes most of the antibiotics that are clinically available.  HIV, a viral STD, is also becoming resistant to available anti-AIDS medications. 

It is a good idea to make sure a prospective sex-partner has bee recently tested for sexually transmitted infections before having intercourse.  Your life may depend on it.

2. Clean gym equipment before using it

Gym equipment gets handled, dripped on, sweated on, spat upon and lain upon by sweaty, dirty people who may be carriers for antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria.  It provides a wonderfully rich environment for bacteria to survive and grow in.  However, scientific studies have shown that simply spraying down the equipment or mats at a gym before using them almost completely eliminates the bacteria present upon them.  Cleanliness is an important part of healthiness.

3. Don't wrestle

This is sort of a combination of #1 and #2.  Wrestlers tend to have a high frequency of MRSA skin infections.  This happens because they wrestle on sweaty gym mats with sweaty people and they get abrasions on their bodies.  Those abrasions are an easy entry point for bacteria.  Once established, a MRSA skin infection can take several months to eliminate and can result in hospitalization.  While it may seem like a fairly safe sport, in some ways, wrestling is one of the most dangerous.

4. Don't pick your nose

The nose is an ideal environment for bacteria to grow in and people who pick their noses tend to have MRSA colonizing their nasal passageways. Once MRSA is introduced into the nose by dirty fingers, it can be very hard to get rid of.  While carriage may not make a person immediately sick, a carrier can spread MRSA to others and make them sick.

5. Disinfect cuts and scrapes as soon as possible

The skin is one of the best protections we have against infections.  When it is compromised, we are placed at risk.  Even tiny cuts or abrasions can serve as entry sites for resistant bacteria.  Antibiotic ointments, iodine, or peroxide are all good choices for disinfecting cuts and scrapes.

6. Avoid getting admitted to the Intensive Care Unit

Okay, there are lots of reasons to avoid going to the ICU, and the main one is conditions that put a patient in the ICU are usually life threatening.  However, once admitted to the ICU a patient is by no means safe from danger, even if recovery seems to be going well.  ICUs are the places where the very sickest patients go and where the most antibiotics are used.  There is a higher concentration of antibiotic resistant bacteria in ICUs than anywhere else on earth.  Patients can acquire skin infections, catheter associated infections and respiratory infections while in the ICU.  Those infections are some of the most resistant on earth and are very often fatal.  It is a very good idea to eat right, exercise, and take care of health concerns sooner rather than later so that you don't wind up in the ICU.

7. When you are in the hospital or a doctors office, be an advocate for yourself.

Doctors and nurses spread a lot of infections to patients.  That makes sense, because they are examining sick people all day.  Very often, they may move between patients so quickly that they don't take the time to wash their hands or clean their equipment.  A doctor should always wash his/her hands before examining a patient.  If you haven't seen your health care provider do that, ask them to.  They know they should and they will probably be embarrassed or impressed by your request rather than angry. Additionally, it is a good idea to ask whether stethoscopes and blood pressure cuffs have been sanitized between patients.

While there is no absolute way to completely avoid exposure to antibiotic resistant bacteria, this list covers the most common way that antibiotic infections are transmitted.  By following these guidelines, you will greatly reduce your risk of acquiring antibiotic resistant infections.

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Comments (2)

This is highly informative. I didn't know that being in the ICU is something that should be taken seriously. Getting those resistant bacteria from ICU confinement makes sense. I also could appreciate how hazardous a doctor's job is. This is an excellent read.

Thank you! The ICU seems like a safe place because you go there to get better. Many people want to stay until they are fully recovered, but the longer the stay, the greater the risk.

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