When Are Antibiotics Necessary?



Antibiotics can’t cure everything

Infections are caused by viruses (cought, sore throats, colds) and bacteria (Strep throat, urinary tract infections, most ear infections). Antibiotics cannot fight viruses, but they can stop bacterial infections.

Abuse of antibiotics causes problems

Bacteria can adapt to new environments, and can become resistant to certain drugs. A major concern with antibiotic abuse is that bacterial strains will become resistant to our current antibiotics. When this happens, you can no longer rely on a certain drug to cure your infection and thus need to purchase more antibiotics in hopes of finding a cure.

Unnecessary use of antibiotics not only causes resistant bacterial strains to form, but it fosters their growth. The presence of drug-resistant bacteria in your body makes it harder to cure future infections. Thus, the more antibiotics you take, the greater your risk of being infected with drug-resistant bacteria.

Follow your Prescription

Resistant bacteria strains can also develop if you stop taking medication before the prescription is over — though you may feel better, some bacteria can still remain and become resistant, causing the problem anew and requiring a new medication to get rid of them. Thus, always take all prescribed antibiotics, and don’t save any for later use.

Deciding when antibiotics are necessary

ONLY your health care provider is qualified to decide when an illness requires antibiotics. If you are unsure as to whether or not you need medication, visit your doctor or clinician.

Protecting yourself from antibiotic-resistant bacteria

The best defense against these drug-resistant bacteria is to take antibiotics only when prescribed to you — never share medications — and for the exact length of prescription. Carefully follow the instructions, take all prescribed doses, save nothing for later use.

This ephnote is based on information from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.