As happens each cold-and-flu season, anyone who develops the slightest cough or sore throat is convinced that it is pneumonia or strep throat. With the media attention given to West Nile virus and whooping cough, my patients are even more convinced that they must have an antibiotic, even when the symptoms are clearly viral or allergic in nature. How can I avoid unnecessary antibiotic use while still satisfying my patients? — Angela M. Young, PA-C, Charlotte, N.C.

Antibiotic overuse is a serious problem and puts both the individual and the general population at risk. Unnecessary use of antibiotics, especially with broad-spectrum antimicrobials, contributes to microbial resistance, the development of superbugs and treatment against side effects.

All clinicians share in the responsibility to avoid unnecessary antibiotic use and should be familiar with guidelines and recommendations for proper use. The CDC has a vast array of materials to help clinicians make better decisions and to advance patient understanding of proper antibiotic use. The Get Smart campaign promotes patient education through fact sheets, brochures, videos, posters and online interactive programs.

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Physician assistants and nurse practitioners also have an obligation to advance the cause of proper antibiotic use and challenge other clinicians not to overuse antibiotics or succumb to unwarranted pressure to do so. — Claire Babcock O’Connell, MPH, PA-C (173-2)

These are letters from practitioners around the country who want to share their clinical problems and successes, observations and pearls with their colleagues. We invite you to participate. If you have a clinical question, submit it here