Antibiotics Potentially Cause Serious Side Effects, As Well As Interacting With Other Drugs, And Must Be Used With Care In Seniors
Taking an antibiotic can seem routine. Pegasus caregivers in Rosemead and elsewhere know that antibiotics are drugs with interactions and side effects. That’s why they believe it’s crucial to use extra care when giving antibiotics to seniors.
Antibiotics kill the bacteria that cause infections. Because there are many kinds of bacteria, there is more than one type of antibiotic. Each type is effective against a specific strain of bacteria.
Healthcare providers typically order tests to determine the cause of a particular infection. That helps them determine if an antibiotic is appropriate, and if so, which one to prescribe. Bacterial infections include those found in the:
- Eyes (pink eye)
- Lungs (pneumonia)
- Throat (strep throat)
- Urinary tract
Traveler’s diarrhea is also treated with an antibiotic. Sometimes a virus, rather than a bacterium, causes bronchitis and ear or sinus infections.
Antibiotics Aren’t Effective Against Viruses Or Fungi
An antibiotic is not effective against fungal or viral infections. Fungal infections include many skin diseases such as ringworm and athlete’s foot. Yeast and some bloodstream infections, meningitis, and fungal pneumonia are other examples that need treatment with antifungal remedies.
Common viral infections include colds, influenza, and sore throats that are not strep throat. If treated, specific antiviral medications are used. Viral pneumonia can result when cold or flu viruses are treated with an antibiotic rather than an antiviral drug.
Antibiotics are available in a variety of forms. These include:
The choice generally depends on the kind and severity of the infection. The individual’s overall health can also be a factor. Nearly all antibiotics require a prescription; however, mild formulations are available in OTC creams and ointments.
Bacteria can take up residence in individuals of all ages, from infants to centenarians. Infections result in death for thousands of seniors. Survival for many depends on prompt treatment with an effective antibiotic.
That isn’t always easy to accomplish. As people age, they have more than one medical condition. That’s known as comorbidities.
Comorbidities and the medications for them can limit the kind and dosage of antibiotics. Antibiotics have potentially serious interactions with drugs that include warfarin, statins, diuretics, and antirheumatics, among many others. Some vitamins, supplements, and OTC drugs interact with antibiotics and impair their effectiveness.
That’s why healthcare providers must know everything that your senior is taking. They also need to be informed about all the medical conditions.
Immune systems and physical strength often weaken as the years accumulate. That can increase a senior’s susceptibility to infection. It can also increase their reaction to antibiotics and other drugs.
All drugs have potential side effects, and antibiotics are no exception. Antibiotics can suppress the immune system further in the elderly. That sometimes means they need increasingly higher doses of antibiotics to overcome an infection.
Common side effects include diarrhea and an upset stomach. Antibiotics also kill off the “good” bacteria the body needs to function correctly. Individuals who frequently need antibiotics may develop a potentially life-threatening diarrheal infection caused by Clostridium difficile bacteria.
Other adverse side effects include:
- Blood disorders
- Hyperkalemia (high levels of potassium that can be life-threatening)
- Irregular heartbeat
- Liver damage
- Ototoxicity (loss of hearing)
- Renal toxicity
- Ulcerated esophagus
Some of these cause permanent damage. Some, such as falling as a result of dizziness, create other serious conditions.
Antibiotic Resistance Threatens Lives
Some individuals demand a prescription for an antibiotic as a “just-in-case” measure when they aren’t feeling well. In the past, physicians complied simply to keep their patients happy even when they knew antibiotics were incorrect.
Once they obtain a prescription, many seniors don’t take the full amount of the antibiotic. They stop for reasons that include:
- They don’t think it’s helping
- They feel better part way through
- They think they were given too much
- Unpleasant side effects
Most save the leftovers. They take the leftovers later or share them with others. Some take leftovers prescribed for other family members or friends.
All of these practices are misuse and contribute to antibiotic resistance. That means that the drug no longer kills bacteria, and the infection worsens. Antibiotic-resistant infections mean that seniors may experience more:
- Expensive treatments
- Serious illnesses
- Time to recover
- Visits to healthcare providers
Antibiotic-resistant bacteria kill thousands of people every year.
To ensure the continuing good health of your senior, avoid prescriptions for antibiotics for non-bacterial infections. The full amount of necessary antibiotics must be taken as prescribed. As with all drugs, antibiotics come with instructions that should be followed to be effective.
Some antibiotics must be taken with food. Others have to be taken on an empty stomach. The consumption of alcohol and foods such as dairy products is often restricted.
Pegasus is a licensed Home Care Organization and a Joint Commission Accredited Home Health Care organization. Pegasus caregivers in Rosemead and our other locations know that care must be taken when seniors are prescribed antibiotics. They can help you minimize the side effects, interactions, and antibiotic resistance in your senior loved one.