What are antibiotics?
Antibiotics are medicines which are prescribed by your doctor to treat a whole range of infections. However, it’s important not to overuse antibiotics. This may lead to a resistance rendering them ineffective. When this happens, the infection you are trying to treat becomes stronger than the medicine and resistant to the treatment. The medicine will not help you fight the illness.
The path to better wellness
Antibiotics are restricted to the treatment of bacterial infections. This includes (amongst many others) strep throat and urinary infections. They will not however treat viruses, such as colds, the flu, or mono (mononucleosis). Your doctor may sometimes prescribe an antibiotic to prevent an infection.
Antibiotics can also be prescribed to treat illnesses causes by parasites and some types of fungus. Instead of asking your doctor for an antibiotic for a virus, ask what you can do to feel better. You may be able to ease your symptoms while your body fights a viral infection.
When you are given an antibiotic, you must follow your doctor’s directions exactly. Take all the antibiotic medicine that your doctor gives you. Don’t stop taking it because you feel better or save some of the medicine for the next time you’re sick. If you skip even 1 or 2 doses there is a chance some bacteria will be left in your body. You may become sick again, and your body may then resist future antibiotic treatment.
If you wash your hands with soap and water before you eat and after you use the bathroom you are helping to keep your body healthy. Regular hand washing may reduce the need for antibiotics in the future.
Things to consider
Antibiotics are used a lot. Sometimes they can be used inappropriately. It is for this reason that antibiotic resistance is becoming a more common problem. It occurs when the bacteria in your body change. This makes it difficult for the antibiotics to fight the bacteria, they don’t recognise it anymore. This may happen when bacteria are repeatedly exposed to the same antibiotics. Or, it can happen when bacteria are left in your body when you have
stopped taking the medicine you were given to fight an infection. These bacteria multiply and become strong enough to resist the antibiotic in the future. This causes your infection to last longer or get worse.
You might have to make several visits to your doctor. He might try you on a different medication. You may have to go to a hospital to get stronger antibiotics given intravenously (through an IV needle into your vein).
Your family members or other people you come into contact with will be exposed to the resistant bacteria you have. Then these people could also develop infections that are hard to treat.
Each time you take antibiotics when you don’t need them or when you don’t finish all of your medicine, you increase the chance that you will one day get an illness that can’t be treated by antibiotics.
It is worth mentioning that ear and sinus infections are usually caused by viruses. Antibiotics cannot treat viruses. Doctors will prescribe antibiotics when symptoms last for 7 or more days or seem to get worse instead of better over time.
Questions to ask your doctor
- How do I know whether my infection is from bacteria or a virus?
- Can certain vaccinations protect me or my child from certain bacterial infections?
- Is an allergy to an antibiotic a sign of antibiotic resistance?
- Can my doctor refuse to give me an antibiotic if I ask for one?
If you have any concerns your Doctor is the person to discuss these with.