Most bacteria in our body are harmless; some even helpful. Still, bacteria can infect almost any organ. Antibiotics are medications that treat bacterial infections andare given till the body’s immune system is working again. Sometimes antibiotics may be given to prevent rather than treat an infection, as might be the case before surgery called 'prophylactic' antibiotics.  

Antibiotics don’t treat everything:

Infections caused by viruses; the overwhelming majority of common respiratory infections like most colds, flu,coughs, bronchitis, many sinus and ear infections and sore throats cannot be treated with antibiotics. Antibiotics do not help fight viruses. When you visit your doctor, be specific of your symptoms so the cause can be narrowed down. Figuring out whether it’s bacterial or viral is crucial.                 

Who should be careful of antibiotics?

  • Anyone with reduced liver or kidney function
  • Anyone who is pregnant/ breastfeeding 

Antibiotics are not One-Shoe-Fits-All:

The antibiotics that work for a urinary tract infection aren’t the same as the ones that fight strep throat. Antibiotics used to fight infections in hospitals aren’t the same as antibiotics used to treat a bacterial ear infection. If you take the wrong medication, it won’t be effective. 

How to use antibiotics?

Antibiotics are taken by mouth or administered by injection or applied directly to the affected part of the body. Most antibiotics start acting within a few hours. Some antibiotics should not be consumed with certain foods and drinks, others taken on an empty stomach,others taken after meals. It is crucial to follow the instructions correctly for the medication to be effective without having unwanted avoidable side effects. Taking leftover antibiotics from the last time you were sick is a bad idea. You risk side effects and drug resistance. 

What does antibiotic resistance mean? 

Patients often don't finish their course of antibiotics once the symptoms are relieved. Itis important to complete the whole course of medication exactly as prescribed to prevent the infection from coming back and to be sure of wiping out all the bacteria. Else the ones that survive are hardest to kill. When they reproduce the next generation is slightly more resistant to that drug than their parents were. In rare cases, this leads to deadly drug-resistant bacterial infections. Once bacteria become resistant to an antibiotic, it might be decades before it can be used again.In large groups of antibiotic resistant people it is easy for an infection to spread unchecked rapidly. The biggest problem is: BACTERIA ADAPT & EVOLVE. Drug-resistant infections are a perfect example of evolution. Because bacteria reproduce so quickly evolution happens fast.    

What total antibiotic resistance could mean for us:

  • The end of most cancer treatments like Chemotherapy and radiotherapy-
  • The end of life-saving transplant operations
  • A huge jump in maternal deaths after childbirth esp. after caesarean section-
  • It could make routine surgery too dangerous to carry out 

Takeaway for you

None of this information should scare you away from taking antibiotics as prescribed when you truly need them since they help fighting off an infection your immune system is too weak to defend. Doctors should prescribe them with caution and patients should follow the prescription to the last letter and not start/alter/stop medication voluntarily.