No one likes being sick. The sooner a doctor can make us well again, the better. It is not surprising that to return to normal as soon as possible, most of us want to find relief in the form of medication when visiting the doctor.
Antibiotics, meaning “against life,” are medications that destroy or slow down the growth of bacteria helping to stop infections. They include a range of powerful drugs and are used to kill the bacteria by keeping them from copying themselves or reproducing. Infections caused by viruses, such as colds, flu, most coughs, and sore throats cannot be treated with antibiotics.
But before you believe that antibiotics can be used to treat just about any illness, here are some facts you should consider before requesting an antibiotic from your doctor:
Antibiotics can do more harm than good if taken unnecessarily
One of the biggest mistakes we can make is to take antibiotics when they are not really needed. If we overuse them, guess what – bacteria are smart and they can adapt becoming resistant to antibiotics over time. This only makes it much harder to treat the condition and sometimes, in rare cases, this leads to deadly drug-resistant bacterial infections.
The more of us who overuse antibiotics, the more drug-resistant bacteria can become making it harder to find effective drug options. This is a serious problem for anyone facing a severe, life-threatening infection.
Only request an antibiotic if your doctor states it will be effective for treating your infection. Otherwise when fighting an infection that cannot be treated with an antibiotic, take good care of yourself by getting plenty of rest, eating nutritiously and keeping well-hydrated with water.
Antibiotics do not work for everything
The main thing to know about antibiotics is what they can treat and what they cannot. Antibiotics fight bacterial infections but are ineffective against fighting viral infections. Viral infections include the common cold which an antibiotic will not help.
When not feeling well, explain to your doctor in detail what your symptoms are being as specific as possible so they are able to narrow down the cause. Your doctor will need to decide whether what you have is a bacterial or viral infection.
A good example is when a person has symptoms such as a consistently high fever (above 101.5), nasal discharge and severe facial pain indicating a bacterial sinus infection. Most sinus infections however, are viral. But if these symptoms last for many days without improvement, then the cause could likely be bacterial. This is why it is important to provide much detail about your symptoms to your doctor helping them figure whether the infection is bacterial or viral.
Do not stock up or “save” antibiotics for later use
It’s never a good idea to “save” medications just in case, especially antibiotics. When prescribed an antibiotic, different antibiotics treat different types of bacterial infections. Do not assume that your leftover medication will work the next time you get a bacterial infection. You run the risk of using the wrong medication that could increase your chance of side effects and future drug resistance.
Antibiotics are not one-size-fits all
Antibiotics are made to treat certain types of infections. For example, do not assume that the antibiotics used to treat your urinary tract infection can be used to fight your strep throat.
The reason why this matters is that taking the wrong medication means it won’t be as effective. There can also be the likelihood of unpleasant and unwanted side effects such as taking a broad-spectrum antibiotic for an extended period of time putting you at risk for C. diff, a severe and hard-to-treat infection.