Do You Really Need Antibiotics?

HealthAid Bloggers
Blogger, Reporter, Writer
Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Immediately most people fall sick, and the next thing they do is get some antibiotics for quick relief. This is not advisable as it has also led to a rise in antibiotic resistance. Before you purchase that antibiotic, ask yourself questions; “Was this prescribed by my doctor?” “How do I know this antibiotic is specific to my infection?”

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That’s why proper lab testing and a visit to the doctor are very important. In the end, you may discover you don’t need antibiotics at all. 

What are Antibiotics?

Antibiotics are a type of antimicrobial drug that attacks bacteria. They can’t treat infections caused by other agents like viruses. 

Antibiotics work in two ways:

  • As a bactericidal antibiotic(e.g. penicillin) that kills bacteria. They interfere with the formation of the bacterial cell wall or cell contents.
  • As a bacteriostatic antibiotic that acts by stopping the multiplication/growth of bacteria.

The first antibiotic to come into being was penicillin, and now we have many penicillin-based antibiotics like amoxicillin, ampicillin, and penicillin-G, which are useful in treating infections. 

Antibiotics also come as over-the-counter(OTC) creams and ointments.

What is Antibiotic Resistance

Antibiotic resistance is a public health threat and concern caused by either underdosing or misuse of antibiotics. Antibiotic resistance occurs when an antibiotic is used incorrectly, leading to a change in the bacteria (adapting and being able to defend itself) which invariably eliminates the effectiveness of antibiotics.

Some infections can be difficult to treat because the antibiotic has adapted and improved its defenses. People who develop antibiotic-resistant infections are more likely to end up hospitalized and at an increased risk for death.

Most people use antibiotics for almost every infection or illness, forgetting that different antibiotics target different infections and that not all infections require them.

Which of these common infections require antibiotics?

Patients often ask their pharmacist or doctor for antibiotics without knowing if they treat these conditions. Sometimes, doctors may over-prescribe antibiotics for conditions that don’t require them.

Common cold/runny nose

Colds are caused by viruses, so antibiotics won’t help. The best you can do is to manage the symptoms or get bed rest and fluids. If you have a cold lasting up to 2 weeks or more, you may have pneumonia. Your doctor may prescribe antibiotics for you after explaining your symptoms. This is because you developed a bacterial infection on top of your cold.

Sore throat or strep throat

If your throat or tonsils are inflamed, you may or may not need antibiotics to treat it. You won’t need antibiotics if the sore throat is caused by a cold. However, if it’s due to bacteria(in cases of strep throat) or bacterial tonsillitis, you would need antibiotics.

Urinary tract infection

Urinary tract infection (UTI) occurs when bacteria reach the bladder, kidneys, or any part of the urinary tract. To relieve symptoms, your doctor will recommend you go for lab screening to determine the exact antibiotics to use. 

So what should I do?

First of all, know that antibiotics don’t work for all infections so consult your doctor and explain your symptoms instead.

To prevent antibiotic resistance, take antibiotics recommended for you and ensure you finish your dose to prevent the return of bacterial growth.

Other tips include:

  • Don’t share or use leftover antibiotics.
  • Don’t save antibiotics for the next illness. Antibiotics are specific for every infection.
  • Don’t take antibiotics or ask your healthcare provider for them when they say you don’t need them.

The most important thing you should remember is; to get a doctor’s prescription first before you buy any antibiotics. If you think going to a hospital is stressful, you can set up a virtual meeting with a certified doctor and explain your symptoms. You can even bring the doctor home! 

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Jun 26, 2022
How do I know when I have developed resistance to an antibiotic?

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