Antibiotics and Your Illness

Antibiotic medications are drugs that are capable of curing infections caused by certain invasive germs known as bacteria. These drugs include some of the most useful and frequently prescribed medicines in use today. When used properly, they can shorten an illness and help prevent spread of the germs to other people. Because of their widespread use and dramatic effectiveness in specific illnesses, many people have come to think of them as the standard treatment for most common types of infections such as sore throats, sinus congestion and cough. The great majority of these infections, including many considered to be sinusitis or bronchitis are caused by tiny germs (called viruses) that are completely immune to antibiotics.

Respiratory viruses are nasty little things that can make life miserable. Because these infections are so unpleasant, there has been a desire by both doctors and patients to do everything possible to make them go away. This has lead to much overuse of antibiotics.

As you may have been reading in the press lately, this approach is causing lots of problems.

The bacteria are getting smart. They have learned to survive most of our antibiotics and they are getting tougher to kill. There are now some that cannot be eradicated even with the newest and strongest medicines we have!  In a few years this could be a very difficult situation.

Taking Antibiotics Responsibly

  • Don't be afraid to ask your provider exactly which type of bacteria he or she is trying to fight with the medication when an antibiotic is prescribed.  Ask about potential side effects and mention any previous problems with antibiotic medications.

  • Take the medication as closely as possible to the way in which it is prescribed.
    Finishing the full course of the drug insures that most of the germs will be eliminated Avoid taking part of a prescription or medication left over from a previous illness. It won't work.

  • Do not expect that you will be given a prescription for antibiotics because you always have received one in the past with similar symptoms. Studies have shown that over half of antibiotics prescribed for respiratory illnesses are completely unnecessary. (In some medical practices the figure is closer to three out of four.)  Because an illness gets better while taking antibiotics does not mean that it was because of the medication. Natural immunity is far more helpful in most cases. (Yellow or green colored mucous is actually a sign your immune system is working!)

  • Rest and take it easy while you are ill.  Avoid strenuous activities and cigarette smoking.


Call or see your own provider if any of these occur:

  • If you develop a rash, diarrhea or vomiting while taking an antibiotic.

  • Your symptoms are getting worse and you feel generally much sicker.

  • Your illness lasts more than two weeks.

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