21st Century Health Hazards Everyone Should Know About
The Danger: Two million Americans become infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria each year. Twenty-three thousand die because of it, per the CDC, and the problem is only getting bigger.
Your Safety Plan: Don't take unnecessary antibiotics. You've heard that advice before, but it's important enough to repeat. "The more we use antibiotics, the more chances bacteria have to evolve to resist them," says David Weiss, PhD, director of the Emory Antibiotic Resistance Center at Emory University. (Once bacteria become resistant, they can spread to other people, or share their new resistant powers with other bugs.) If you and your doctor decide you do need an Rx, finish the prescription. Stopping early could leave some bacteria alive and give them a chance to develop resistance, says Weiss. Because these infections can be picked up anywhere, hand washing is key—the WHO's six-step plan beats the CDC's three-step plan for getting rid of bacteria, according recent research. That applies to medical pros especially. The most resistant bacteria is often found in hospitals (sick people plus lots of antibiotics being used), so if you're a patient, don't hesitate to ask doctors and nurses to wash their hands before they enter your room, says Weiss.