You have likely taken antibiotics for many, many illnesses over the course of your life. Often, even the worst of infections don’t stand a chance against antibiotics. They’re effective against so many illnesses, you may be surprised when your doctor actually prescribes something different. Antibiotics often seem like the end-all-be-all of medicine, but are they?
Facts About Antibiotics You Should Know Before Using These Drugs
It’s amazing how often illnesses are held at bay or eliminated by simply taking antibiotics. It’s easy to think there’s nothing they can’t handle. This powerful medicine is only effective against certain illnesses, however,
1) Antibiotics are not helpful for colds or the flu.
Though very powerful, antibiotics don’t work for everything. They won’t help against any illnesses caused by a virus. This includes the common cold, influenza, many cases of acute bronchitis, runny noses, most ear infections, and non-strep sore throats.
2) They should only be taken for bacterial infections.
Antibiotics kill bacteria, effectively fighting bacterial infections only. They do not work against viruses or viral infections and can actually cause more harm than good. Taking antibiotics when you don’t need them puts you at risk for antibiotic-resistant infections and harmful side effects.
3) The side effects can be serious.
Though not everyone will experience every side effect of antibiotics, they’re serious enough to take note of. Side effects include severe diarrhea, antibiotic resistance, and allergic reactions such as rashes, skin blistering, swelling of the neck and throat, and difficulty breathing. If you are taking an antibiotic and experience any of these side effects, call your doctor right away.
4) There is no one antibiotic for everything.
With antibiotics, there is no one size fits all. Every type of infection is different, caused by different types of bacteria, and require different antibiotics. It’s important to choose the one best suited for your specific infection. Taking the wrong one will not be as effective and could result in harmful side effects. It’s important to talk to your family physician to determine which antibiotic will be most effective for a particular illness.
5) They can weaken your immune system.
Antibiotics fight all types of bacteria and cannot distinguish between your body’s good bacteria and the bad bacteria. This means it will kill some good bacteria your body needs to fight off infection and keep a strong, healthy immune system. Through misuse and overuse of antibiotics, you will make yourself more susceptible to reinfection and at a higher risk of developing resistant bacteria.
6) They increase your risk of obesity.
Antibiotics disrupt your body’s balance of good and bad bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract. They can even permanently alter your gut’s bacterial balance. In this way, they may also cause you to put on unwanted weight. They can also get your hunger hormones out of whack with confusing signals which increase your hunger.
7) Taking old antibiotics is a bad idea.
It’s very common after a sickness to save leftover antibiotics, “just in case”. The idea is you never know when you’re going to be sick again and maybe these antibiotics could help if you do. As mentioned already, however, different sicknesses are caused by different bacteria. Since there is no one-size-fits-all antibiotic, this means a different antibiotic may be necessary for different illnesses.
You may think it won’t hurt anything to take an old antibiotic, but you put yourself at risk for becoming resistant to that particular antibiotic which means it won’t work when you actually need it. You also risk the serious side effects mentioned above.
Antibiotics are a very powerful medicine that’s extremely effective against many different infections. There is no one-size-fits-all, however, and they simply do not help against virus-related illnesses and infections. Put simply, they kill bacteria. Understanding the facts about antibiotics will help you experience their maximum effectiveness. Talk to your family doctor to find out what antibiotics are right for you and your particular illness.