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January 02, 2020 | Abigail Mckay

What is Antibiotics? Resistance, Uses, and Side effects

Antibiotics are a relatively new concept that first came on the scene in 1929 when Alexander Fleming developed penicillin. Until the development of immunizations and antibiotics, the mortality rate in most countries was still high due to the lack of modern medicine utilized when fighting bacterial infections. Antibiotics target bacteria and slow the replication of the bacteria or ultimately kill the bacteria. It is vital to note that antibiotics will not treat viral infections. The typical "cold" is, in fact, a virus and not a bacterial infection. While many people believe that an antibiotic will help defeat the virus, taking an antibiotic to treat a common cold can increase resistance to antibiotics in the future.  

Antibiotic Resistance

Resistance, which develops through unneeded usage of antibiotics, can be detrimental when antibiotics are needed to treat a bacterial infection. Antibiotic resistance can develop through taking an antibiotic when not indicated or by not taking the complete course of antibiotics. For an antibiotic to be prescribed, a doctor must determine that the illness presented is indeed a bacterial infection. Strep throat, a sinus infection, or a urinary tract infection are examples of a bacterial infection that would need an antibiotic to treat it effectively. 

How to Take an Antibiotic 

When a doctor prescribes an antibiotic, it is essential to take it exactly as indicated. Many people will begin to feel better within the first few days of taking an antibiotic. However, this does not mean that you should stop taking it once symptoms subside. Instead, continue to take the antibiotic as prescribed until the course is completed.  The entire course of antibiotics will ensure the destruction of the bacterial infection. If you stop the course mid-treatment, there is a chance that the infection will come back stronger. Another course of antibiotics will be indicated if the infection returns, and it will usually require a stronger dosage to treat the infection. 

Probiotic Usage with Antibiotics

When taking antibiotics, they can have a wide variety of side effects, but the most common is gastric upset and diarrhea. Antibiotics can alter the bacteria in the gut, causing a strong presence of harmful bacteria. Probiotics are good bacteria that can be taken orally to replenish the good bacteria in the gut. Our gut houses good and bad bacteria, and at certain times, bad bacteria can flourish, which can lead to stomach ailments. Replacing the good bacteria in the gut through the use of probiotics helps keep a healthy balance. Many doctors have started to recommend the use of probiotics during antibiotic treatment to prevent a gut imbalance and subsequent gastric upset. 

To prevent the overuse of antibiotics, do not pressure your doctor into prescribing an antibiotic prescription if he or she does not think it is necessary. Instead, follow the doctor's orders to treat the presenting illness. If symptoms continue without resolution of symptoms, set up another appointment with your physician to determine if the viral infection has evolved into a bacterial illness.

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Abigail Mckay

Abigail has been a nurse for five years, and throughout her time as a nurse, she has worked in multiple medical-surgical units as well as spent time in the infusion therapy clinic and endoscopy lab. She is passionate about preventative medicine through patient education regarding nutrition and exercise. Due to her passion, Abigail has gone on to earn two certifications including a certification in medical-surgical nursing (CMSRN) and a certification in holistic nursing (HNB-BC), in hopes of being able to better serve her patients. Abigail earned her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Liberty University in Lynchburg, VA and now bettering patient education in the healthcare system through partnering with American TelePhysicians.