Proper Use of Antibiotics – Guidance from the Doctors at South Tampa Immediate Care
Antibiotics, when used properly to treat bacterial infections, can be true lifesavers. However, antibiotics are not the answer every time you get sick. In fact, when taken to treat viral infections, such as colds and the flu, antibiotics are not only ineffective, but they can also do more harm than good. Unfortunately, this type of indiscriminate overuse can – and has – led to a proliferation of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
In addition, not taking antibiotics exactly as prescribed to treat bacterial infections can lead to similar problems. For example, if a patient takes the drug for only a few days instead of completing the prescribed course of treatment, some bacteria are likely to survive and flourish, becoming resistant and spreading to other people.
Infections from antibiotic-resistant bacteria are difficult to treat, leading to extended illnesses and the need for multiple doctor visits and stronger, more expensive medications that can cause side effects. While experts continually work to develop new treatments for these hardy strains, infectious bacteria are capable of adapting very quickly, so it is difficult to keep pace. Antibiotic resistance is not only a burden on the healthcare system, but also presents a pressing threat to public health worldwide.
Some common illnesses for which antibiotics may be an appropriate treatment include:
- Strep throat
- Bladder infections
- Staph infections
- Severe, bacterial sinus infections
- Some ear infections
On the other hand, antibiotics have no effect on viral infections such as:
- Most sore throats
- Most ear infections
- Most coughs
- Stomach flu
Of course, it is not always obvious whether an infection is caused by bacteria or a virus because the symptoms can be very similar, so it’s important to consult with a healthcare practitioner who can make that determination. Further, a viral infection can temporarily decrease a patient’s resistance level, making him or her susceptible to secondary bacterial infection, so a proper diagnosis is doubly important.
If a patient has a healthy immune system, his or her body’s natural defenses will combat the virus. The key to feeling better in the meantime is managing the symptoms. While it may sound like a cliché, it’s important to get plenty of rest, drink lots of fluids, and, if needed, take over-the-counter analgesics to relieve pain and reduce fever. If the symptoms do not improve in a few days, or worsen, it’s advisable to see a doctor.
Contact or visit the South Tampa Immediate Care walk-in clinic today if you would like to consult with a physician. For more information about family health and wellness, you may also find our online series of health articles helpful.