WHAT ARE ANTIBIOTICS?
Antibiotics are medicines used to treat infections caused by bacteria. Two types of germs cause most infections: viruses and bacteria. Antibiotics will not cure infections caused by viruses, such as colds and the flu.
WHEN ARE THEY USED?
Antibiotics are used to treat illnesses such as strep throat, sinus infections, bacterial pneumonia, and urinary tract infections. In special cases, antibiotics may be given to prevent infection.
WHEN ARE ANTIBIOTICS NOT NEEDED?
Taking antibiotics when you do not need them can cause problems when you do need them at a future time. Bacteria can change and become antibiotic resistant. This means that they are able to defend themselves against antibiotics. An antibiotic that used to work well may then no longer kill the bacteria. This means that a stronger antibiotic must be used, if one is available. There are some bacteria that are now resistant to all known antibiotics.
Your primary healthcare provider will decide whether antibiotics should be used based on the specific symptom or diagnosis. Here are a few examples:
· Colds: Antibiotics have no effect on colds and are not needed.
· Cough: Antibiotics are rarely needed for coughs.
· Bronchitis: Antibiotics are not needed for some types of bronchitis.
· Ear infections: Some ear infections need antibiotics, but mild ones do not.
· Sinus infections: Thick or green mucus does not always mean that bacteria are causing the infection: Antibiotics may be needed for some long-lasting or severe cases of sinus infection.
· Sore throat: Most sore throats are caused by viruses and are not treated with antibiotics. However, a sore throat caused by strep bacteria is treated with antibiotics. Strep throat should be diagnosed with a lab test.
HOW DO THEY WORK?
Antibiotics cure infections either by killing bacteria or by stopping their growth. Once growth is stopped, the body’s normal defenses can attack the bacteria. There are many types of antibiotics. Each works a little differently. Some are for specific types of bacteria.
Antibiotics may come in different forms, such as liquids, pills, shots, drops, lotions, and gels. Your primary healthcare provider will choose which medicine will work best for your infection.
WHAT SHOULD I WATCH OUT FOR?
Antibiotics are usually very safe and effective if taken correctly. However, they may interact with other drugs. Tell your primary healthcare provider about all medicines, herbs, and vitamins that you take. Make sure you tell your primary healthcare provider and pharmacist about any drug allergies you have, and if you have had side effects from any drugs, such as nausea or vomiting.
Antibiotics work best if you:
· Take them exactly as directed.
· Take antibiotics for as long as your primary healthcare provider prescribes, even if you feel better. If you stop taking the medicine too soon, you may not kill all the bacteria and you may get sick again.
· Take only antibiotics that are prescribed for you. Do not share medicines with other people.
· Never use leftover antibiotics.
Many antibiotics have side effects. The most common are upset stomach, diarrhea, and rashes. Ask your pharmacist if you can take the antibiotic with food. Taking medicines with meals may lessen the chance that they will upset your stomach. However, some antibiotics should not be taken with milk or food. Check the label. If you have mild side effects, do not stop taking the antibiotic. First see your primary healthcare provider or pharmacist for advice.
The use of acetaminophen or NSAID’s for the treatment of fever and/or pain are compatible with antibiotics. Contact a professional primary healthcare provider if a fever persists greater than 48-72 hours after the first dose of antibiotics.
WHEN SHOULD I SEE MY PRIMARY HEALTHCARE PROVIDER?
See your primary healthcare provider or 811 right away if:
· You have hives, swelling, swollen lips or tongue, wheezing, or shortness of breath.
See your primary healthcare provider during office hours if you are taking an antibiotic but:
· Your symptoms get worse.
· Your symptoms do not get better as soon as your primary healthcare provider told you to expect.
· You are having symptoms of allergy, such as an itchy red rash.