Antibiotic resistance and seniors: Everything you need to know

(NC) Colds, flu, and infections are concerns for everyone this time of year, but adults aged 65 and over are at an increased risk of getting sick. This is because older adults may have a weakened immune system and are frequently exposed to healthcare settings where infections can easily spread. This means older adults are also at an increased risk of an antibiotic resistant infection.

Antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria change so that the antibiotics used to treat the bacteria become less effective and sometimes stop working altogether. There are also not enough new antibiotics being developed, leaving few alternatives when an antibiotic no longer works to treat a bacterial infection.

Antibiotic resistance can happen naturally, but a major contributor is the overuse and misuse of antibiotics. This includes using antibiotics when they are not needed, not taking antibiotics as prescribed, self-medicating, and sharing antibiotics. Fortunately, there are simple tips older adults — and those living and working with them — can follow to prevent infections and antibiotic resistance.

1. Keep vaccinations up to date. The best defense is a good offense, so it is important to make sure all required and recommended vaccinations are up to date, including the annual flu shot.

2. Practice good hygiene. Keep hands clean, and cough and sneeze into your elbow or tissue. Clean common surfaces with soap and water. Store, handle and prepare food safely to avoid food-related illness.

3. Use antibiotics responsibly. Taking antibiotics when they are not needed can increase their risk of not working when you really need them. Take prescribed antibiotics exactly as directed. Do not share your antibiotics with anyone, and be sure to return unused medicine to the pharmacy for safe disposal.

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