Antibiotics are a category of medicines used to treat bacterial infections. Popularly known as antibiotics, their other name is antibacterial due to their ability to cut or slow down the bacterial growth.

People may perceive them to work against viral infections, but the fact is that they are only effective against bacteria. Many diseases caused by viruses such as cold and flu, cannot be treated by antibiotics. However, in most of the cases, it isn’t easy to distinguish between a viral and a bacterial infection just by the symptoms.

Such cases require further probing through a blood workup because our blood cell counts show different patterns while going through different types of infections.

An increased leukocyte count is an indication of a bacterial infection.

Antibiotics are generally categorized in two types while there are many sub categories under these two categories.

‘Broad-spectrum antibiotics’ as the name suggests, are those which are effective against many bacteria while ‘narrow-spectrum antibiotics’ are effective against only a few.

How and when to use antibiotics?

Antibiotics are prescription medicines that should not be taken without consulting with a medical practitioner. Even after prescription, it is crucial to take care of the time of taking medicine advised by your doctor.

Their ideal dosage ranges from 1 to 4 times a day with an equal interval between two dosages. The equal time interval between dosages ensures a similar medicine level in the bloodstream throughout the day.

The other precaution one must take while taking antibiotics is the number of days for which the doctor prescribed it. Follow the doctor’s advice, even if your symptoms start subsiding before the cycle’s completion.

One should take antibiotics with water. Taking antibiotics with milk or fruit juices can alter their absorption in the body.

While on antibiotics one must avoid alcohol consumption. It can cause reactions such as dizziness, hot flushes, increased heart rate and excessive sweating.

 Doctors advise avoiding dairy products immediately after taking antibiotics because the combination can cause nausea.

Additionally, not all antibiotics are taken the same way. Doctors advise some antibiotics on an empty stomach while others with or after food.

In short, the best way to take antibiotics is according to how your doctor has prescribed it.

Ways to administer antibiotics:

Antibiotics can be administered in the following ways:

Orally:

Antibiotics can be orally administered either in solid forms such as tablets and capsules or in liquid forms such as syrups.

Topical:

These are antibiotics that come in the forms of creams, lotions or sprays that treat skin infections.

Injections:

Antibiotics can be injected in the body through a syringe or through drips.

Antibiotic resistance:

Antibiotic resistance is a phenomenon when microbes become immune to antibiotics. People may get confused that humans or animals become resistant to antibiotics, but antibiotic resistance is for bacteria.

An antibiotic when administered acts on the bacterial cell wall to either kill it or stop it from further multiplying. When a bacterium becomes antibiotic resistant, the antibiotic doesn’t work on the bacterial cell wall to change its structure.

Antibiotic resistance is an alarming situation that is pushing the world back to the pre-antibiotic era when infections had no cure and the infection induced mortality rates sky-rocketed.

Not all bacterial species are antibiotic resistant but some such as gonorrhea, pneumonia and some foodborne diseases are.

The worst part is that the number of resistant microbes is increasing only.

The primary cause of antibiotic resistance is the misuse of antibiotics.

In countries where there is limited medical monitoring, medical practitioners go overboard with prescribing antibiotics(even in viral infections as well) that causes certain antibiotics to lose their effectiveness.

Other than that people can misuse antibiotics by using them for too long or taking leftover antibiotic medicine on experiencing another infection, without consulting a doctor.

To limit the problem of antibiotic resistance, individuals should act responsibly while using medicines.

Personal hygiene is a must to ensure limitation of infections.

Governments must strictly scrutinize the medication usage of masses to ensure stopping misuse.

Side Effects:

It is not necessary for everyone to experience antibiotics side effects but almost 10% patients can show bowel related issues while on medication.

These side effects include diarrhea, bloating, vomiting or nausea.

Other side effects such as a skin rash may also occur.

There are certain groups of antibiotics that cause specific side effects that are not common such as sensitivity to light, clotting of blood, kidney stones or in  very limited cases deafness.

Allergy:

Allergies against antibiotics are also not common but a few people can experience breathing issues such as tightening of throat and chest.

Other allergic reactions include swelling of face and tongue that also causes difficulty in breathing.

Anaphylaxis:

Anaphylaxis is a serious allergic reaction that needs immediate medical attention. It is not limited to antibiotics usage only but it remains a life-threatening situation and can be fatal in some cases.

It can occur in people with dysfunctional liver and kidneys.

Considerations:

Pregnant and breastfeeding women can also have allergic reactions to antibiotics.

Women who are taking oral contraceptives should inform their healthcare provider about them in case of antibiotics prescription.

It is important to let your doctor know about your drug reaction history and any additional information that is relevant to an antibiotic prescription.

Conclusion:

  • Antibiotics are only effective against bacteria. They can treat conditions such as strep throat, skin infections, whooping cough and urinary tract infections.
  • They are not suitable for treating conditions such as cold and flu.
  • While on antibiotics or otherwise, one must be cautious about his hygiene. Washing hands frequently limits the spread of infection. Habits such as covering your mouth while sneezing or coughing limits the chance of infecting other people.
  • Leftover antibiotics should always be properly discarded and one should never  take antibiotics without a doctor’s advice.
  • Always discuss your condition and history of allergies with your doctor while infected.
  • Do not break an antibiotic tablet into small pieces; it can cause the medicine to lose its effectiveness.