Dr Asha Thomas, Medical Director for Doctor on Call Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Don’t pop that antibiotic the next time you have a health concern, a doctor warned.

Self-medicating using antibiotics and overusing them are one of the world’s most pressing health problems, said Dr Asha Thomas, Medical Director for Doctor on Call, a 24/7 medical services facility that provides health-care services at homes and hotels.

“Some people still believe that using an antibiotic is a quick solution for all illnesses, including a cold and flu. However, overusing them eventually leads the antibiotic to become ineffective against certain bacteria and viruses. In addition, it can result in side-effects such as diarrhoea, stomach pains, headaches and even thrush,” Dr Thomas said.

Antibiotic resistance could lead to up to 10 million deaths, globally, by 2050, based on estimates. Yet, antibiotics remain one of the most powerful classes of drugs to date and, in many cases, they are needed to save lives.

The global antibiotics market is estimated to have been nearly $41 billion (Dh150 billion) in 2015 and is expected to reach $44.7 billion in 2020, sites a recent report by Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

While most antibiotics are used to treat bacterial infection, they aren’t always used for viral infections. For example, an antibiotic is the drug of choice for streptococcus throat infection, but it is not the right choice in the treating a sore throat, which is caused by a virus.

Taking antibiotics for viral infection doesn’t cure the infection, but can cause unnecessary and harmful side-effects and promote antibiotic resistance. While the consequences of antibiotic resistance are serious, it can also result in long recovery from infections, more frequent or longer hospitalisation and more expensive treatment choices.

It has been observed that up to one-third to one-half of antibiotic use in humans is either unnecessary or inappropriate.

To combat antibiotic resistance and avoid adverse reactions, patients should use antibiotics appropriately, only as needed, and most importantly, correctly.

Residents should practice good hygiene to avoid bacterial infections that require an antibiotic prescription. In addition, experts suggest getting immunised on time, as vaccines protect against bacterial infections such as diphtheria and whooping cough (pertussis).

Residents should also have good eating habits to reduce the risk of food-borne bacterial infections.

“Most patients who come to us demand an antibiotic prescription to treat their condition without even understanding the implications it might have. Also, it’s a common practice for patients to use antibiotics prescribed for another patient. This can lead to severe medical consequences. It is therefore important to take antibiotics as prescribed by your own doctor, in the right amount, at the right time,” Dr Thomas said.