What Are Antibiotics?

Antibiotics are a set of drugs that are used to cure bacterial infections. They work by either killing or preventing the growth of bacteria, making it difficult for the infection to spread or worsen. Antibiotics are typically prescribed by a doctor or healthcare provider and can be taken orally or intravenously.

There are many several types of antibiotics available, each with its own set of uses and potential side effects. Some common examples are medications that consist of penicillin, tetracycline, and erythromycin.

Here, it is a perceptible fact to remember, that antibiotics do not work in the treatment of viral infections including flu or common cold. Moreover, if you overuse antibiotics, it can lead to producing bacteria that are antibiotic resistant. This means that bacteria are no longer susceptible to the effects of antibiotics, making it more problematic to treat the infection. To combat the spread of antibiotic resistance, it is important to only take antibiotics when they are truly needed and to always take them as prescribed. Moreover, it is always suggested that you should finish the entire course of treatment as prescribed, even if you start to feel better. This will help ensure that all of the bacteria are killed and prevent the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.


Uses of Antibiotics

Antibiotics are commonly used to treat a wide range of infections, some of them are:

  • Skin infections such as cellulitis, impetigo, and boils.
  • Gastrointestinal infections such as food poisoning, campylobacteriosis, and salmonellosis.
  • Bone and joint infections such as osteomyelitis and septic arthritis.
  • Respiratory infections such as sinusitis, bronchitis, and pneumonia.
  • Urinary tract infections such as cystitis and pyelonephritis.
  • Sexually transmitted infections such as chlamydia, syphilis, and gonorrhoea.
  • Bloodstream infections such as sepsis and endocarditis.
  • Eye infection
  • Dental infection
  • Ear infection

Antibiotics are also generally used in surgical procedures to prevent the spread of infections. They can be used before, during, and after surgery to help prevent bacterial infections from developing.


When will they be prescribed?

When a person has any type of bacterial infection as mentioned above, doctors and healthcare providers prescribe antibiotics. They usually consider the following factors when determining whether or not to prescribe antibiotics:

  • The severity of infection: Antibiotics may be prescribed in case of severe infections or for those that are at risk of spreading or worsening.
  • Response of patient to initial treatment: When initial treatment medications do not help the patient in improving symptoms, antibiotics may be prescribed to help clear the infection.
  • Overall health status of the patient: People with weakened immune systems or certain underlying health conditions may be more likely to be prescribed antibiotics.
  • Possibility of secondary infection: If a person has an infection that could lead to a secondary bacterial infection, antibiotics may be prescribed as a preventive measure.


It is important to note that not all bacterial infections require antibiotics, and some can be treated with self-care measures, such as rest and over-the-counter pain relievers. Additionally, in certain situations, like in an outbreak of a bacterial infection in a community or in a hospital, antibiotics may be prescribed as a precautionary measure to prevent the spread of infection.


When should you not take antibiotics?

There are certain situations when antibiotics should not be taken, or when the use of antibiotics should be avoided if possible:

  • Viral infections: Antibiotics are only helpful against bacterial infections and will not work against viral infections such as the common cold, flu, or most sore throat.
  • Allergic reactions: Some people have allergic reactions to certain kinds of antibiotics, especially penicillin. These people are suggested to not take the antibiotics again as it may lead to side effects such as rashes, coughing, breathing difficulties, etc.
  • Self-limiting infections: Some infections, such as mild cases of diarrhoea, will typically resolve on their own without the need for antibiotics.
  • Pregnancy: Some antibiotics can be harmful to a developing foetus and should be avoided during pregnancy.
  • With certain other medications: Antibiotics can interact with other medications and medical conditions. If you are taking any other medication or having some medical issues, you should inform the healthcare provider before they prescribe the treatment of antibiotics.
  • When not prescribed: Antibiotics should not be taken until prescribed by your doctor or healthcare provider. Self-medication can be harmful to you and can lead to further health issues, so it is necessary that you should consult before taking any.


Side effects of antibiotics

In certain conditions, antibiotics can have a range of side effects, varying from minor to severe. Some common side effects of antibiotics include:

  • Stomach upset, which can further lead to nausea and vomiting
  • Antibiotics can disrupt the balance of good bacteria in the gut, leading to diarrhoea.
  • Overgrowth of yeast, can cause vaginal yeast infections or thrust.
  • Some antibiotics can make the skin more sensitive to the sun, leading to sunburn or other sun-related skin problems especially while taking tetracycline
  • Long-term use or high doses of certain antibiotics can damage the liver and kidneys.

In summary, antibiotics are an important tool for treating bacterial infections, but they should be used responsibly and with caution as avoidance of care may lead to severe issues and side effects for the patients. Noticing that antibiotics do not work against viral infections such as flu or a common cold, it is important to follow a healthcare provider’s instruction when taking antibiotics and to only take them when they are truly needed to help prevent the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Please note: Advice and opinions in this article are not that of Medicine Drop. You should always consult your pharmacist or GP directly should you have any health related questions or concerns.