This column appears in the Nevada Appeal Wednesday health pages. It addresses topics related to the health of our community.This is the time of year when many people come down with coughs, sneezes, runny noses and sore throats. It’s also the time of year when many people head to their doctor’s office or the urgent care clamoring for antibiotics. What many people do not realize is that many upper respiratory infections, colds, and some ear infections are caused by viruses, not bacteria. Antibiotics are useless against viruses, so taking these medications will not make you feel better and can lead to antibiotic resistance.Antibiotic resistance happens when bacteria — germs — change so that the antibiotic medications used to treat bacterial infections are no longer effective. When medications are used inappropriately to treat an infection caused by a virus, it can lead to antibiotic resistance. If this happens, then the medications are no longer useful when they are really needed.The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cites developing antibiotic resistance as one of the world’s most pressing public health threats. Resistant bacterial infections are tougher to treat than infections for which antibiotics are effective. Some infections, such as multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis and MRSA, can lead to prolonged hospital stays and can require many months of treatment to clear the infection.You can help prevent antibiotics resistance. Do not demand antibiotics when a doctor says they are not needed, and avoid taking an antibiotic for a viral infection such as a cold or most sore throats. Also, never take medications that were prescribed for someone else. The antibiotic might not be right for your illness, and taking the wrong medicine might delay correct treatment and allow bacteria to increase.If your doctor prescribes an antibiotic for bacterial infection, make sure you take the medication completely and as directed. Do not skip doses, and do not save any of the antibiotics for the next time you or your child gets sick.If we all use medication responsibly, we can ensure that we will have effective treatments against bacterial infections for years to come.For more information about Health Department services, check out our website at www.gethealthycarsoncity.org or “like” us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/CCHHS.