Yesterday, the New York Times published an article by Cara Buckley on young adults who lack health insurance. Although theyâre often referred to as âyoung invincibles,â most of the people profiled in the article donât actually think they wonât need medical care. They donât have insurance because they canât afford it.
The article highlights an important problem â young adults often lack an affordable insurance option once theyâre off their parentsâ plans â but the lasting images from it are of people trying to make do without doctors. One 29-year-old musician told Buckley that heâd been unable to walk for two weeks due to crippling foot pain; based on results from WebMD, heâs diagnosed himself with plantar fasciitis and has been icing his feet.
But hereâs the part that actually made me cry out in anguish:
[Freelance photographer Nicole] Polecâs roommate, Fara DâAguiar, 26, treated her last flu with castoff amoxicillin â âprobably expired,â she said â given to her by a friend.
Hereâs your public-service announcement for the day: TAKING ANTIBIOTICS INCORRECTLY IS HARMFUL. And anyway, ANTIBIOTICS DONâT TREAT VIRUSES.
Failing to take antibiotics as directed by a doctor â for instance, failing to finish a course of treatment because symptoms have improved â is one of theÂ factors contributingÂ to antibiotic resistance, a problem thatâs making it harder to cure everyoneâs infections. (If youâre not sufficiently scared about antibiotic resistance, read this article.) If DâAguiar got antibiotics from a friend, it probably meant that friend didnât finish the prescribed course. So, the friend likely contributed to antibiotic resistance, and then allowed DâAguiar to do the same â even though DâAguiarâs flu wasnât going to respond to the drug, anyway.
Later in the article, Buckley talks to a doctor who explains that antibiotic-sharing is bad:
Dr. Barbie Gatton, who has worked in emergency rooms throughout the city since 2002, said she often sees young people who have taken the wrong antibiotics borrowed from friends.
âWe see people with urinary tract infections taking meds better suited for ear infections or pneumonia â the problem is, they havenât really treated their illness, and theyâre breeding resistance,â she explained. âOr they take pain medicine that masks the symptoms. And this allows the underlying problem to get worse and worse.â
I look forward to the day when everyone in this country will have access to healthcare. Until then, maybe we can at least spread some awareness about using antibiotics properly.