What Are Antibiotics?

Many people take antibiotics without fully knowing what these drugs do. An antibiotic is a medicine that kills bacteria and stops bacterial infections from growing. Antibiotics do not work on viruses and cannot treat viral infections. Antibiotics can be taken topically, intravenously, or orally and should be prescribed by a physician. Broad-spectrum antibiotics work on a wide variety of bacteria and narrow-spectrum antibiotics work on a small subset of bacteria.

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Types of diseases for treatment

Antibiotics are used to treat conditions like strep throat, meningitis, urinary tract infections, and whooping cough. Some bacterial infections clear up naturally due to the body’s immune system response. However, more aggressive forms of bacteria need to be treated with antibiotics. Most doctors know the specific strain of bacteria that causes these diseases so doctors can prescribe antibiotic treatments quickly.

Side effects associated with taking antibiotics

People can experience some side effects while taking antibiotics. These side effects include diarrhea, rash, and nausea. Side effects vary and some patients can experience more severe side effects like allergic reactions or severe diarrhea. Patients dealing with any seriously uncomfortable side effects should seek medical attention immediately.

How long do I have to take antibiotics?

The length of treatment depends on the type of bacterial infection. For instance, a patient with strep throat may have to take antibiotics for 10 days. However, most antibiotic treatments last for 7-14 days. Some patients may begin to feel better after a few days but should continue to take medication as prescribed.

Why keep taking antibiotics if I feel better?

Many people are tempted to stop using antibiotics when symptoms start to improve, but this is a bad idea. As with most medications, the prescribing physician did not intend for a drug to be stopped abruptly. Stopping antibiotics early can cause problems. Leftover bacteria can linger in the body, cause another infection, lead to serious complications, or create antibiotic resistance. People should also refrain from sharing antibiotics with others or taking medication prescribed for someone else.

Should I talk to my doctor about antibiotics?

Patients interested in learning more about antibiotics should speak to a physician. A healthcare provider can explain the different types of antibiotics and how these medicines work to fight bacteria. A physician will also be able to prescribe antibiotics if needed but only if needed as overuse is a common problem in the US.


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