Wellness Matters

Can Too Many Antibiotics Be Bad for You?

November 19, 2015

It’s the middle of winter and you feel tired and achy. Your nose is stuffed up and your energy level is low. Several trips to the store have yielded an arsenal of over-the-counter cold remedies, yet little relief. You begin to wonder if it is time to visit the doctor to get an antibiotic. Will it work?

One of the world’s rapidly expanding health problems is antibiotic resistance. Taking antibiotics too often may do more harm than good. This means that the dangerous antibiotic resistant bacteria becomes more difficult to kill and can spread easier causing greater damage.

Using antibiotics too frequently is one of the main causes of antibiotic resistance. It is the bacteria, not the patient, that becomes resistant to drugs. When you take an antibiotic, the sensitive and weaker bacteria cells are killed, but some resistant bacteria cells are left to multiply. This means that a stronger version of the illness can grow and spread. As a result, antibiotics should be used sparingly, taken only out of necessity.

Bacterial Infections

Antibiotics address bacterial infections. There are many of these infections that can make you feel bad. The good news is that the body will heal when given the proper amount of time and care. Some of the most prevalent bacterial infections that respond to antibiotics are:

Viral Infections

Antibiotics do not work against viral infections. Therefore, antibiotics will not help you feel better. When a person picks up a virus, it invades some of the host’s cells and redirects those cells to produce the virus. Well-known viral infections are:

Consider seeking medical treatment if you have:
  • A fever of over 100.4.
  • Visible blood or pus.
  • Symptoms that do not improve with over- the-counter medication.
  • Repeated bouts of the same illness.
  • Symptoms lasting longer than three weeks.
  • Unusual or very severe symptoms.

Many everyday infections are painful and inconvenient, but there are steps you can take to make the symptoms tolerable while the body heals itself:
  • Get ample rest and drink plenty of fluids.
  • Avoid airborne pollutants, especially smoking.
  • Take a pain reliever such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
  • Wash hands regularly.

If you are prescribed antibiotics for an illness:
  • Take them until completion of prescription.
  • Never skip doses or stop taking the antibiotic early when you begin to feel better.
  • Do not save some for the next time you are sick or share with others who may be ill.

Antibiotics are a great tool to help the human body heal from a bacterial infection when taken properly. However, no antibiotic known to science can cure a viral infection. Make sure you are taking the correct medicine when you are ill. If you are not sure, ask your doctor what the best course of action is for you.

About the Author

Jeremy J. Frens, PharmD, BCPS is an Infectious Disease Pharmacist with Cone Health Pharmacy Services


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