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Antibiotics are a class of medicine that’s used to treat infections caused by bacteria. There are currently over 100 antibiotics available, with the first—penicillin—becoming available in 1928. Bacterial infections were responsible for up to 30% of all deaths before the introduction of antibiotics.
What are the most popular antibiotics?
Antibiotics work by killing bacteria or at preventing it from multiplying. While there are dozens of antibiotics routinely used each year, the most common include:
What conditions do antibiotics treat?
Antibiotics are available to treat a wide range of conditions caused by bacterial infections. You may be prescribed antibiotics if you’re suffering from:
- Blood poisoning
- Strep throat
- Urinary tract infection
- Whooping cough
Antibiotics are sometimes prescribed as a precaution, before you have an infection. This might be before a surgery or when you’re fighting a disease that affects the immune system, such as cancer or AIDS.
Can antibiotics cure the flu?
Antibiotics cannot treat conditions that are caused by viruses, such as the flu. Other viral conditions where antibiotics won’t help you are bronchitis, the common cold, runny nose, and sore throat. Antibiotics are also ineffective for fungal infections, such as athlete’s foot, ringworm, and yeast infections.
Note that there are some conditions that may be caused by either bacteria or a virus, such as ear and sinus infections. Your doctor may be able to test to determine what is causing your symptoms. In other cases, he may prescribe antibiotics anyway to see if they help.
What is antibiotic resistance?
Bacteria evolve, just like all living things. When they’re treated with antibiotics, they change in order to survive, which makes them more difficult to kill. This is called antibiotic resistance.
Antibiotic resistance is a major issue that’s being caused by irresponsible use of antibiotics. In addition to them being prescribed for situations where they won’t help, such as the common cold or flu, patients don’t always finish their treatment regime. This means that some bacteria may be allowed to live, and that bacteria will go on to change and learn to survive against antibiotic use.
When bacteria become immune to antibiotics, we start to see people dying of conditions that were once highly treatable. Even illnesses like strep throat have the potential to become deadly if we don’t work harder at preventing antibiotic resistance.
How do I take antibiotics?
Antibiotics are available in different forms, including:
Your doctor will determine your best treatment method, including type of antibiotic and form, based on your condition. You should take your medicine exactly as prescribed, including dosage and duration, for best results and to combat antibiotic resistance.
Be sure to let your doctor know about any other medicines you may already be taking. Some medications, such as birth control pills, can interfere with the effectiveness of antibiotics.
If you are prescribed an antibiotic that is taken by mouth, you’ll generally be advised to take it on an empty stomach. If you experience an upset stomach, you may take the medicine with something light, such as a piece of bread. You should also refrain from drinking alcohol while taking antibiotics as it can also amplifying nausea and upset stomach.
Antibiotics will start attacking bacteria as soon as you start taking them. You will usually notice an improvement in symptoms after two or three day. It’s common for people to start feeling much better before they finish their antibiotics. No matter how good you feel, you should finish all of your medicine.
The most common antibiotic side effects concern the stomach. They include:
You can generally alleviate these symptoms by taking your medication with food. Be sure to talk to your doctor first as he may need to adjust your dosage.
Antibiotics can be sensitive to heat and light, so they should be stored in a cool, dark place. Liquid antibiotics are generally stored in the refrigerator. Don’t keep antibiotics in the bathroom where they may get wet or in the glove box of your car where they make be exposed to high temperatures.