The Real Reason Antibiotics Aren’t Always the Answer

Peak cold and flu season begins now during the fall season and lasts through the winter. If you do happen to catch a bug, you’ll want to get better as soon as possible. But while many people think that no matter the symptoms, antibiotics can help speed up the process, that’s far from the truth. What antibiotics are—and aren’t—used for: Antibiotics are strong drugs that fight something specific: bacterial infections. They won’t cure illnesses or infections caused by viruses. Examples of viruses are:

  • Common cold
  • Most coughs and bronchitis
  • Flu
  • Sore throats that aren’t caused by strep

If you have any of the above illnesses, an antibiotic won’t help you at all.

Risks of taking antibiotics incorrectly: Antibiotics are helpful when prescribed and taken properly. If not, they can be harmful to you and others. That’s because, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, some bacteria can become resistant to antibiotics if the medicine is used incorrectly. When this happens, the bacteria becomes stronger and harder to kill, which could mean antibiotics won’t be able to fight it in the future and treatments will need to get more and more intense. The resistant bacteria also quickly multiply, causing the potential for the bacteria to spread to family members, coworkers and friends.

How to make sure antibiotics work when you need them: To help reduce your risk, follow these tips:

  • Talk to your doctor about the best treatment for your symptoms.
  • Don’t pressure your doctor to prescribe antibiotics.
  • If prescribed an antibiotic, follow your doctor’s instructions and carefully read the warning labels.
  • Don’t skip doses, stop taking antibiotics early or take more than prescribed.
  • Don’t save them for the next time you’re sick.
  • Don’t take antibiotics prescribed to someone else.

To learn more, check out the CDC’s Get Smart: Know When Antibiotics Work campaign. And for other insight into taking prescription medication correctly, head over to these blogs:

For additional information on how to communicate with your doctor before taking antibiotics, check this out:

Photo credit: Sheep Purple

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  1. Give a test that only a few can answer correctly… such as percentages… I have had two college pharmacology courses with an A plus average… what I would like to comment is the necessary follow up care of a course of Pro-biotics.. and hope that more localized antiobiotic therapy will be implemented. A dermal patch for skin issues.. and an aerosol for lung issues, instead of running everything through the G.I tract and the liver.

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