5 Facts You Should Know About Antibiotics

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The word antibiotic literally means against life or which kills life, this means this class of medicines kills the living agents like bacteria, fungus, parasites, etc. The most commonly used subclass of antibiotics is Antibacterials, which the name indicates kills the bacteria. Antibacterials are commonly called as antibiotics by the layman.

Antibiotics are life-saving medicines. They are considered as an essential class of medicine. The medical sciences do very vast research on this class and still, scientists are studying these medicines to develop more and more advanced molecules of antibiotics which have more specific antibiotic ability and fewer side effects.

These medicines are one of the most prescribing medicines by medical practitioners. And with the widespread use of these medicines, it is very important to know some major facts about them.

1. Antibiotics Do Not Cure Everything

It should be kept in mind that antibiotics do not kill viruses. That means they cannot treat common cold or flu. People start taking antibiotics for their common cold. Rather they should consult a doctor and tell their symptoms very precisely, so that doctor can identify whether it is a bacterial or viral infection.

Usually, the high-grade fever above 101.5 degrees with nasal discharge, sputum from the throat and severe facial pain indicate a bacterial infection. And low-grade fever with stuffy head may be the symptoms of viral infections like a common cold.

When you take antibiotics for common colds like infections and the symptoms are reducing. It’s not the antibiotic that cures your infection rather it’s the time which helps in diminishing the symptoms of a virus. A Virus has a specific time for the completion of its life cycle and it cures on its own.

So antibiotics should not be taken without the prescription of the doctor. And the medical practitioners should also thoroughly identify the type of infection before prescribing antibiotics.

2. Misuse of Antibiotics Produces Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria

Misuse of antibiotics includes both the overuse and underuse of these medicines. Which leads to very devastating problem i.e. Bacteria adapt. It means bacteria become resistant to antibiotics which they face very often and they stop responding to them. And then resistant bacteria cannot be killed by those antibiotics.

On the other hand when you are underdosing (not completing the course of antibiotics); the bacteria again produce resistance against those specific antibiotics. Even if you feel better and symptoms of infections completely subside, you should complete the course. Because some of the bacteria can be present in your system and they are about to die but as you stop taking medicine, they produce such chemicals which make them strong and resistant to that specific antibiotic. And as a result, these bacteria cannot be killed by that antibiotic in the future.

These resistant bacteria are a very serious and life-threatening issue not only for an individual but for a whole population.

Read Also: 3 Most Spreading Virus in Pakistan

In this situation, drug-resistant bacteria decrease the drug options (antibiotics) that work against them when you face a severe infection. These resistant types of bacteria are very hard to treat, for instance, the infection you get from the hospital can be very severe as the bacteria present in hospitals are resistant to most of the antibiotics.

So it is necessary to complete your antibiotic course because when you are making one bacterial strain resistant, it’s not only harming yourself rather it’s dangerous for the whole population as making it easier for an infection to spread. And on the other hand, it is making use antibiotics useless for your future generations.

3. Antibiotics also Kill Good Bacteria

Antibiotics are not specific to kill only bad bacteria. Rather they kill all the bacteria in the human system whether they are essential ones or bad ones. The good bacteria present in the intestine are also killed by them, which are essential to maintain our immune system strong and produce some vitamins. The killing of these bacteria leads to malabsorption, diarrhea or deficiency of some important vitamins. So it is advisable to always take antibiotics when they are prescribed.

You can take probiotics (good bacteria) supplements with the use of antibiotics. But be sure you are taking those probiotics 4 hours after you take your antibiotics as you don’t want to kill your probiotics.

Sometimes it is advised to drink milk with antibiotics because it contains a high amount of vitamins. But many antibiotics cannot be taken with milk and dairy products. So always ask your doctor or pharmacist whether you drink milk or not with your antibiotics.

4. One Antibiotic Cannot Cure All Types of Infections

The antibiotic that treats urinary tract infection cannot be used for your respiratory tract infection. Doctors use broad-spectrum antibiotics (which kill many types of bacteria) in hospitals usually because the chances of different types of infections are more. But your doctor will prescribe you a specific antibiotic for your specific type of infection when the type of infection is known. This can be done by a culture sensitivity (CS) test. These tests are performed on the sample of your body fluids like blood, urine or sputum, etc. Doctors usually prescribe a broad-spectrum antibiotic before the final reports of the CS test, because they can kill a wide variety of bacteria. But when more information is known (as from a CS test), treatment may be changed to a more specific type of antibiotic.

This is important because if you take the wrong medicine, it will not be effective. Rather it shows more side effects on you.

Usually, people save their old antibiotics to use them for future illness. This is not a good practice. It is necessary to visit the doctor before taking any antibiotic medicine.

5. Allergic Reactions

Antibiotics are considered very safe medicines but they can show allergic reactions. These reactions vary from mild to severe. You can be allergic to any antibiotic. Whenever you face an allergic reaction from an antibiotic, do remember its name and tell your doctor or pharmacist in future because that antibiotic and other similar ones are not suitable for you.

Allergic reactions include skin rashes, difficulty in breathing, etc. Whenever you feel any reaction after taking your medicine, immediately go to the emergency department of a hospital.

Other than these facts, some common practices of misusing antibiotics can also be seen in our society due to lack of knowledge. So these points should keep in mind;

  • Medicines which are used to treat fungal infections (antifungal) are also a type of antibiotic, so the completion of their course is also necessary.
  • Medicines like metronidazole (a common brand name is Flagyl) are also a type of antibiotic and they should be taken in the form of a complete course.
  • Many topical creams and ointments are antibiotics usually antifungal, are used without prescription of the doctor and without identifying the type of infection whether it is bacterial or fungal. This practice should be stopped.
  • Always ask your pharmacist how to store antibiotic medicines because it really affects their efficacy.
  • Some medicines like probiotics or medicines for the protection of your stomach are usually prescribed by your doctor with antibiotics. They are necessary to take with them.
  • It is necessary to keep the exact time difference between doses of antibiotics to get the best results.
  • Some antibiotics lose their efficacy if taken with milk, so ask your doctor or pharmacist for that.

Hence, it is very important to follow your doctor’s instructions while taking antibiotics. Do not take antibiotics without a doctor’s consultation. Antibiotics should be taken when you truly need them, so doctors should prescribe them with caution and patients should take them according to the prescription. It is not only beneficial to you but also for the whole population. You can also consult with Best General Physician in Lahore, Karachi, Islamabad or main cities of Pakistan and get yourself properly evaluated on a regular basis.

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Aiman Usman (Doctor of Pharmacy)
She is a pharmacy graduate and worked as a hospital pharmacist. Her interests are teaching, blogging, and scientific writings. She likes to write about medicines, health issues, health and beauty-related natural remedies, the nutritional value of different foods, and mental health.
Aiman Usman (Doctor of Pharmacy)

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