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You've read the news. Now, what can you personally do to avoid contributing to a world where antibiotics don't work anymore?

Twenty years ago, an "antibiotic apocalypse" would have sounded just about as plausible as a zombie outbreak. Today, it is a very real possibility, with scientists just recently having reported that bacteria are becoming resistant to the last-resort drug colistin in humans and livestock in China, a resistance that will inevitably and easily spread over the globe. We are, researchers say, now on the cusp of a post-antibiotic era. 

Does the thought of a world in which simple infections or an operation can kill you scare the living daylight out of you? Here at SteadyHealth, we feel the same way. It is time to take steps. As the World Health Organization is working on solutions, we patients also have a role to play. 

What can you do to minimize your risk of needing an antibiotic in the first place, when do you really need antibiotics, and what can you do to make sure you take them safely?

Prevention Is Better Than The Cure: How To Minimize Your Odds Of Needing Antibiotics

Yes, antibiotic resistance is, to a large extent, caused by the misuse and overuse of antibiotics. Only using antibiotics for bacterial infections and not for viruses (for which they are utterly powerless), and taking your antibiotics exactly as prescribed are two important steps patients can take to contribute to a world in which antibiotics will still be available in the future. Prevention is still better than a cure, however, and consumers can also help ensure that they will not need antibiotics — by preventing bacterial infections. 

Oftentimes, the microbes for which you need antibiotics enter your system through a cut in the skin, an IV line, or a surgical wound. How do they get there? Contact with your own dirty hands is an extremely likely culprit. 

Of course, medical professionals are expected to wash their hands before performing any type of examination or treatment on you, including before touching mucus membranes, tending to wounds, and inserting IV lines. This is what the World Health Organization refers to as "aseptic procedures". You, yourself, need to maintain the same high level of hygiene as your healthcare providers. How? By washing your hands with soap and water after touching other patients, after using the toilet, and before touching openings in the skin through which bacteria may enter. Always wash your hands after visiting a healthcare facility, before and after eating, and after using public transportation or other public facilities as well.

Practicing meticulous hand hygiene is a prime way in which you can prevent becoming ill and needing antibiotics. That applies not just to you, but also to other people with whom you come into contact. By encouraging people within your workplace or place of study, at your children's schools, at the gym, and in your own home to wash their hands with soap and water when they enter the facility and doing the same yourself, you are engaging in infection prevention. 

Bacteria are also more likely to wreak havoc on your body if you already have a weakened immune system. Making a healthy, balanced diet full of fruits and vegetables a priority will help prevent illness, in turn minimizing your risk of needing antibiotics. You can further maintain a strong immune system by making sure you are up to date on vaccines, and by getting enough sleep and exercising regularly. Finally, avoid sexually transmitted diseases by always using condoms unless both you and your partner have been tested for STDs and both of you are monogamous. 

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