The San Quentin News “Health and Wellness Corner” column runs every month. A University of California, San Francisco, health professional student will answer questions that you submit about health issues. Inquiries will be answered in the next month’s paper. Feel free to ask us questions about any medical concern that you have, and it may be answered so that everyone can benefit. If you have a question, put it in a U-Save-Em envelope addressed to:
Health and Wellness Corner, UCSF Doctors (Dr. Shira Shavit) – Medical Box. If you include your name and number, they will be kept confidential. Note that this column is for general medical questions.
This edition, we will address the following question:
Why is it Dangerous to Take Other People’s Medications?
Your health care provider may prescribe you medicine to keep you strong and healthy. Medications you get from your doctor are specially chosen for you to use and there may be serious consequences when someone else uses them.
One type of medication that should not be shared with anyone else is an antibiotic.
What are antibiotics?
Antibiotics are medicines that attack bacteria, a type of germ that can make you sick. Your immune system is usually strong enough to fight off bacteria that try to get into your body. If your immune system can’t get rid of the bacteria alone, your health care provider will give you antibiotics to help your body to kill the bacteria.
You might wonder why antibiotics that help us get better when we’re sick shouldn’t be shared with someone else who might have the same symptoms. It is dangerous to share antibiotics because:
- Some people are allergic to certain kinds of antibiotics. Allergies to antibiotics can be serious, and can even cause death. Your provider will work with you to prevent you from taking the wrong kind of antibiotic.
- Different sicknesses sometimes look the same. You and your cellie may have the same symptoms, but you could have totally different sicknesses. When you take the wrong kind of antibiotic, you might get worse.
- Antibiotics don’t work when viruses, another type of germ, makes you sick. If you take antibiotics when a virus is making you sick, they will not help you get better. Only your provider can make sure if you’re sick because of a bacteria or a virus.
- When bacteria are exposed to an antibiotic over and over the bacteria can become strong enough that the antibiotics don’t work on them anymore. This is called resistance. Taking other peoples antibiotics can lead to resistance.
If you feel like you might need medication, submit a sick call slip to your provider. He or she will work with you to make sure that if you need medication, you get the right kind of antibiotic.