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What are antibiotics?

Antibiotics are used to treat bacterial infections. There are hundreds of different antibiotics, but they can be broken down into 6 categories:

  • Penicillin are some of the more common types of antibiotic, and are used to treat a variety of infections, such as chest, skin, and the urinary tract infections.
  • Macrolides can be used when a patient has an allergy to penicillin, or when strain of bacteria causing infection is immune to penicillin. They also treat infections of the lungs and chest.
  • Tetracyclines are often used to treat skin conditions, like, rosacea and acne.
  • Cephalosporins are often used for diseases, such as meningitis, but can also be used for a wide range of infections.
  • Aminoglycosides can cause serious side effects, such as kidney damage and even hearing loss if administered by ear drops. As a result, these types of antibiotics are only used for the more serious of conditions.
  • Fluoroquinolones are no longer used as often due to risk of serious unwanted results, however they were used to treat a wide range of infections.

What are they used for and how do they work?

Antibiotics are treating a range of bacterial infections. Harmful bacteria affecting the body causes a bacterial infection. Antibiotics kill the bacteria that cause infection as well as symptoms and stop their spread.

Where can I get antibiotics?

Antibiotics are usually prescribed by your doctor, once your condition has been diagnosed as bacterial infection.Depending on type of antibiotic that you need, and where the infection is located, the antibiotics could come in tablet, liquid, cream, or drop form. For more serious conditions that may require hospital treatment, the antibiotics may be administered by injection.

It is important to note that you should only take antibiotics when instructed by your doctor or another suitable professional. This is to stop antibiotic resistance.

What is antibiotic resistance?

Antibiotic resistance happens when certain bacteria change their behaviours while interacting with antibiotics in the body. Over time, bacteria islearning to become resistant to several types of antibiotics. This means that the antibiotic will not be effective anymore.

As antibiotic resistance is becoming more commonplace, a number of infections are now becoming harder to treat, such as tuberculosis and gonorrhoea. Misuse and the over prescribing of antibiotics means the bacteria strains causing these infections are resistant to treatment and antibiotics are less effective, therefore leading to more serious conditions, increased hospital stays and even death.

Efforts are now being made in order to prevent the development of antibiotic resistance, with the use of antibiotics being restricted, and some conditions no longer being prescribed antibiotics as a form of treatment, such as some chest infections.

How much should I take?

Your doctor will prescribe a course of antibiotics to you, often for a duration of between 3-14 days, to be taken up to 4 times a day, either with food or on an empty stomach depending upon the type of antibiotic prescribed.  It is worth noting that you should complete the full course of antibiotics given to you, even if you feel better before you have finished your treatment. This is because your body needs to get rid of all of the bacteria causing the infection, as if any is left behind after you stop taking the antibiotics, you may run the risk of the remaining bad bacteria becoming resistant to the antibiotic you have taken.

What happens if I take too much?

If you take 1 extra dose than needed or take 2 doses within a shorter space of time than is recommended, there shouldn’t be any cause for alarm. You may experience some minor side effects, such as feeling sick or diarrhoea, but these should not be serious.

However, if you take more than this amount, it is wise to contact your doctor or pharmacist for advice.

Are there any notable side effects I should be aware of?

Common side effects of antibiotics include nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and stomach upset. Sometimes patients can experience coughing, a tight throat or itchy skin, but this can be gone with the use of common antihistamines. However, if symptoms do not improve, you should contact your doctor.

Some people can be allergic to some types of antibiotics, such as penicillin and cephalosporins. Sometimes this can lead to anaphylaxis, which requires urgent medical intervention. If you, or any family members are allergic to a type of antibiotic, it is likely that your doctor will prescribe a different type of antibiotic for your condition.

If you are in doubt about how to take your antibiotics, or whether your condition will require antibiotics, always talk to doctor, who is able to help you to make good decision reading your treatments.

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