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Special Cautions for Antibiotic Use

By: Ian Murnaghan BSc (hons), MSc - Updated: 25 Oct 2012 | comments*Discuss
 
Special Cautions Antibiotic Use Viral

Many people have been prescribed antibiotics at some point whether it's for an infection like strepthroat or one such as cystitis. Your symptoms can be extremely painful and once antibiotics therapy commences, you might find that you feel better very quickly and may feel inclined to stop use. Other times, your doctor may be overzealous and may inappropriately prescribe antibiotics for a condition that can't effectively be treated by antibiotics. In addition, side effects can be unpleasant and you may be tempted to stop taking your antibiotics.

Viral Versus Bacterial Infections
Antibiotics are for bacterial infections and are not effective in treating viral infections such as the flu, for example. While you can suffer from both a viral and bacterial infection at the same time, the antibiotics will only treat the bacterial infection.

Antibiotic Overuse
Antibiotic overuse has become a major issue, particularly in recent years. Because of factors such as the inappropriate or overly heavy prescribing of antibiotics, bacteria have developed a resistance to some antibiotics and this presents a challenge for treatment. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to minimise the chances of this occurring and maximise the benefits of your antibiotic treatment.

Personal Responsibility
There has been concern that doctors are over-prescribing antibiotics too quickly, before confirming that an infection is indeed a bacterial one. If your symptoms are severe or fairly defined such that your doctor is quite sure your infection is bacterial in nature, he or she may appropriately prescribe antibiotics for immediate use prior to obtaining results from a throat swab, for example. While your doctor is the key person for advice and information, don't be afraid to ask questions about your antibiotic prescription so that you're clear on why your doctor is prescribing it and that you are certain he or she really does think it's likely your symptoms are caused by a bacterial infection. There is a certain amount of personal responsibility on the side of patients to question their doctors and ensure that medication is appropriate for their symptoms.

Finish Taking All Antibiotic Medication
You may be surprised to learn that not finishing your antibiotic therapy can actually lead to antibiotic overuse. How can this be? Often, people experience rapid relief from their symptoms once they begin antibiotic therapy and they stop taking the drug once they being to feel better. The infection, however, is still present and will become progressively worse, which will then result in the patient needing another full course of antibiotics, sometimes a longer or stronger one. The potential for antibiotic resistance increases as well. Always finish taking your full antibiotic prescription, regardless of whether you feel relief quickly or not.

Don't Share Your Antibiotics
Your antibiotics are in a prescribed dose that is appropriate to your needs. By sharing them, you miss one or more dosages and the person taking them can suffer ill effects. If someone asks to take a dose from your antibiotics, simply decline politely and encourage him or her to obtain advice from a doctor for the symptoms.

Don't Take Someone Else's Antibiotics
Don't guess that symptoms you are experiencing are attributed to a bacterial infection and can thus be helped by antibiotics. If you suspect you have a bacterial infection, see your doctor, who can conduct the appropriate tests to confirm the infection and then prescribe a suitable antibiotic for treatment. By taking antibiotics that aren't intended for you, the risk of side effects or an unpredictable reaction is present and you also increase the chances of antibiotic resistance for when you do require antibiotics.

Antibiotic Interactions
Antibiotics can have many side effects with other drugs, foods or conditions. They may also decrease the effectiveness of birth control pills so it's wise to use a back-up method of birth control if you are taking antibiotics. Some antibiotics are less effective when taken with supplements or foods that are high in minerals such as iron or calcium. Instructions may advise you to avoid such foods or supplements within several hours of taking your antibiotic dose. Antibiotics are also notorious for causing gastrointestinal upset in many people, so you may want to avoid particularly heavy or difficult to digest meals while you are on antibiotic therapy. Try to consume a healthy diet during this time, which will not only reduce stomach upset but can support your immune system. If you find that you experience particularly uncomfortable side effects, don't simply stop taking your antibiotics. Consult with your doctor first; he or she may then choose an alternate antibiotic to treat your infection.

Despite our best efforts to avoid illness, bacterial infections can occur and your prescribed antibiotic therapy is important to get you back to your usual self. By following directions and ensuring you finish all of your treatment, you can clear up that painful infection and feel better much sooner.

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