PSA: Don't Take Fish Antibiotics Unless You Are A Fish. In Which Case You Are Probably Not Reading This.
You know, you learn something new every day. Yesterday, I learned that Americans are taking fish antibiotics because they cannot afford antibiotics for humans.
Are you ready for a really, really radical idea? People in the richest country on Earth shouldn't have to take fis… https://t.co/OOVO1HnfHH— Bernie Sanders (@Bernie Sanders) 1576168229.0
Now, look. I know people have their issues with Bernie Sanders. But I would hope that we could all agree that people taking fish antibiotics is objectively bad, and for multiple reasons.
First, obviously it is bad that people are taking them because they cannot afford regular antibiotics. In fact, it's disgusting. It's right up there with people crowdfunding for insulin or drinking bleach or begging people to not call ambulances when they're injured because they can't afford it and the many, many other indignities we are supposed to put up with for the privilege of not having universal health care.
But more than that, it's freaking dangerous. It is not safe. Fish antibiotics are not only not approved for human use, they're not actually approved for use by fish, either! No one is regulating them!
As the FDA explained to Smithsonian Magazine:
If consumers are seeing these products in stores, they should be aware that these products have no assurance of purity, safety or effectiveness. The FDA does not have any information about the unapproved antibiotics sold in pet stores because they have not been evaluated for quality, safety, effectiveness, or purity. We strongly advise people to not substitute them for approved products that are intended for use in humans as prescribed by their health care provider.
That's from 2017, when this tweet about Amazon reviews by people using fish antibiotics as regular antibiotics went viral:
How bad is American healthcare? Read the reviews for aquarium antibiotics and decide for yourself. https://t.co/DT8wuq4iHg— 𝚁𝚊𝚌𝚑𝚎𝚕 𝚂𝚑𝚊𝚛𝚙 (@𝚁𝚊𝚌𝚑𝚎𝚕 𝚂𝚑𝚊𝚛𝚙) 1501419326.0
The Smithsonian article also explained that even if fish antibiotics were approved for fish, it would still be a very bad idea to self-medicate with them. Why? Because there are a bunch of different kinds of antibiotics and you need to be sure that you're using the correct one at the correct dosage for the infection you have, not to mention being sure that you even have a bacterial infection in the first place.
Honestly, you have to be so careful about antibiotics, just in general. Even human antibiotics! Years ago, doctors thought I had a mitral valve prolapse and thus had to take antibiotics every time I went to the dentist or orthodontist (which was fairly often when I was in high school, because braces). Later, they decided I didn't have that, and that people with an MVP don't actually even have to take antibiotics before going to the dentist anymore unless they are specifically at risk for endocarditis. But here I am, not knowing if I built up a resistance to antibiotics during that time, and probably can't know unless I someday actually need them and they don't work. This is one of the things I think about in the middle of the night when I wake up and decide to have a weird panic attack!
This is obviously a tough situation we are in because obviously there are people who need antibiotics and cannot afford them and don't know what the hell else to do. I'm not really surprised that people are willing to take a risk. It would be nice if we were a normal country and people could just go to a doctor and get antibiotics if they need them, but we're not. Maybe someday!
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse