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Reactions to Antibiotics Send Thousands to Emergency Rooms Every Year

By August 18, 2008

What Your Doctor Is Reading
What your doctor is reading is a regular feature that reviews current information about medications from medical journals often read by physicians.

Antibiotic-associated adverse events lead to more than 140,000 emergency room visits every year, according to a recent study. About 80% of emergency room visits for antibiotic-associated adverse events were the result of an allergic reaction. Other causes included:

  • Side effects, such as diarrhea, dizziness, and headache
  • Accidental overdoses
  • Unintentional exposures, such as a child finding and taking an antibiotic

Since most of the adverse reactions to antibiotics were due to an allergy, the only way to prevent the problem is to avoid the antibiotic. The study noted that “more than one-half of the estimated 100 million antibiotic prescriptions written in the community each year for respiratory tract infections may be unnecessary.”

If doctors stop writing prescriptions for antibiotics that are not needed, the number of emergency room visits for adverse reactions may do down. “For an individual patient, the risks are greater than the benefits, and the discussion should stop there.”

What do you think? Leave a comment below or in the Medication Forum.

Source:
Linder J "Antibiotics for treatment of acute respiratory tract infections: decreasing benefit, increasing risk, and the irrelevance of antimicrobial resistance" Clinical Infectious Diseases 2008. Accessed online August 16, 2008.
Shehab N, Patel PR, Srinivasan A, and Budnitz DS. "Emergency department visits for antibiotic-associated adverse events" Clinical Infectious Diseases 2008. Accessed online August 16, 2008.

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