(HealthDay News) — Many older adults do not follow instructions related to antibiotic use, according to a report published online Nov. 4 based on the results of the University of Michigan National Poll on Healthy Aging.

Researchers surveyed a randomly selected sample of about 2,200 older adults aged 50 to 80 years to examine their experiences with and opinions about antibiotics.

According to the report, 48 percent of respondents reported filling a prescription for antibiotics in the previous two years. Overall, 13 percent had leftover medication, with the top reasons being that they received more doses than needed and they stopped taking the medication because they felt better (34 and 32 percent, respectively). Sixty-five percent of those with leftover antibiotics reported keeping them, while 20 percent threw them away or flushed them down the toilet. Sixty percent of those who kept leftover antibiotics did so in case they got another infection; 6 percent kept leftover antibiotics in case a family member got an infection. Nineteen percent of respondents reported ever taking antibiotics without talking to a health care professional (17 percent took their own leftover medication). Although 56 percent of respondents believe that doctors overprescribe antibiotics, 41 percent said that they expect a prescription for an antibiotic if they have a cold that lasts long enough to visit a doctor.

“We obviously have work to do to help older adults understand safe and appropriate use of these medications so that we can preserve the effectiveness of antibiotics for patients who need them most,” poll director Preeti Malani, M.D., said in a statement.

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