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List of Contents

1. Side Effects

2. What should I know about antibiotic safety?

3. What side effects are related to antibiotics?

4. Drug interactions

5. When should you take antibiotics?

6. What is the proper dosage?

7. How safe are antibiotics?

8. How does a physician decide which antibiotic to prescribe?

9. What should women know before taking antibiotics?

Antibiotics Safety
What ere Antibiotics?
Antibiotics are medicines that help stop infections caused by bacteria. They do this by killing the
bacteria or by keeping them from copying themselves or reproducing. The word antibiotic means
against life. Any drug that kills germs in your body is technically an antibiotic. But most people
use the term when theyre talking about medicine that is meant to kill bacteria. Before scientists first
discovered antibiotics in the 1920s, many people died from minor bacterial infections, like strep
throat. Surgery was riskier, too. But after antibiotics became available in the 1940s, life expectancy
increased, surgeries got safer, and people could survive what used to be deadly infections.

What Antibiotics Can and Cant Do

Most bacteria that live in your body are harmless. Some are even helpful. Still, bacteria can infect
almost any organ. Fortunately, antibiotics can usually help.

These are the types of infections that can be treated with antibiotics:

Some ear and sinus infections

Dental infections
Skin infections
Meningitis (swelling of the brain and spinal cord)
Strep throat
Bladder and kidney infections
Bacterial pneumonias
Whooping cough

Only bacterial infections can be killed with antibiotics. The common cold, flu, most coughs,
some bronchitis infections, most sore throats, and the stomach flu are all caused by viruses.
Antibiotics wont work to treat them. Your doctor will tell you either to wait these illnesses out or
prescribe antiviral drugs to help you get rid of them.Its not always obvious whether an infection is
viral or bacterial. Sometimes your doctor will do tests before deciding which treatment you
need.Some antibiotics work on many different kinds of bacteria. Theyre called broad-spectrum.
Others target specific bacteria only. Theyre known as narrow-spectrum.

Side Effects

Since your gut is full of bacteria -- both good and bad -- antibiotics often affect your digestive
system while theyre treating an infection. Common side effects include:

Bloating or indigestion
Abdominal pain
Loss of appetite

Occasionally, you may have other symptoms, like:

Hives a raised, itchy skin rash

Tight throat or trouble breathing Antibiotic Safety and Side Effects

What should I know about antibiotic safety?

Antibiotics are powerful drugs that are generally safe. They are very helpful in fighting disease,
but sometimes antibiotics can actually be harmful.

Key facts to know about antibiotic safety:

Antibiotics can have side effects including allergic reactions and serious, possibly life-
threatening diarrhea caused by the bacteria (germ) Clostridium difficile (C. diff). Antibiotics
may also interfere with other drugs you may be taking.
Side effects of antibiotics are responsible for almost one out of five emergency department
visits. They are the most common cause of emergency department visits for children under
18 years of age.
When you take an antibiotic you do not need, you are unnecessarily exposed to the side
effects of the drug and do not get any benefit from it.

Taking an antibiotic you dont need can lead to the development of antibiotic resistance. When
resistance develops, antibiotics may not be able to stop future infections. Every time you take an
antibiotic you dont need, you increase your risk of developing a resistant infection in the future.
The bottom line: antibiotics come with benefits and risks. If you are prescribed an antibiotic,
discuss the balance of benefits and risks with your healthcare team.

What side effects are related to antibiotics?

Allergic reactions: Every year, there are more than 140,000 emergency department visits for
reactions to antibiotics. Almost four out of five emergency department visits for antibiotic-
related side effects are due to an allergic reaction. These reactions can range from mild rashes
and itching to serious blistering skin reactions, swelling of the face and throat, and breathing
problems. Minimizing unnecessary antibiotic use is the best way to reduce the risk of side
effects from antibiotics. You should tell your doctor about any past drug reactions or
C. difficile: C. difficile is a type of bacteria (germ) that causes diarrhea linked to at least
14,000 American deaths each year. When you take antibiotics, good bacteria that protect
against infection are destroyed for several months. During this time, you can get sick from C.
difficile. The bacteria can be picked up from contaminated surfaces or spread from the
healthcare environment. People, especially older adults, are most at risk who take antibiotics
and also get medical care. Take antibiotics exactly and only as prescribed.

Drug interactions

Antibiotics can interact with other drugs you take, making those drugs or the antibiotics less
effective. Some drug combinations can worsen the side effects of the antibiotic or other drug.
Common side effects of antibiotics include nausea, diarrhea, and stomach pain. Sometimes these
symptoms can lead to dehydration and other problems. Ask your doctor about drug interactions
and potential side effects of antibiotics. Notify your doctor right away if you have any side
effects from antibiotics you are taking.

When should you take antibiotics?

Antibiotics are prescribed for illnesses caused by bacteria, not by viruses. The common cold and
flu are caused by viruses, not by bacteria. Antibiotics do not work against viruses. When used
prudently, antibiotics are a powerful medical tool to thwart bacterial diseases. Prudent use
includes taking antibiotics only for diagnosed bacterial infections and following the precise
directions on the prescription.
What is the proper dosage?

Prescriptions are written to cover the time needed to help your body fight all the harmful
bacteria. If you stop your antibiotic early, the bacteria that have not yet been killed can
restart an infection.Leftover antibiotics are not a complete dose, and they will not work to
kill all your disease causing bacteria. Taking partial doses can select for the bacteria that are
resistant. Always talk to your doctor because your symptoms may not be caused by bacteria.
If you do have another bacterial infection, a complete dose of the appropriate antibiotic is
needed to kill all the harmful bacteria.

How safe are antibiotics?

Antibiotics are generally safe and should always be taken as prescribed by your doctor; however,

o Antibiotics may alter the effectiveness of other medications and cause side effects or allergic
o Antibiotics can kill most of the bacteria in your body that are sensitive to them, including
good bacteria. By destroying the bacterial balance, it may cause stomach upsets, diarrhea,
vaginal infections, or other problems.
Take All of the Antibiotic Prescription

You should finish the entire prescribed course of antibiotics, even if your symptoms clear up. If
you stop taking the medication mid-course, the infection could linger and the bacteria may
become resistant, setting you up for more problems.

Abstain from Alcohol

Antibiotics and alcohol can cause similar side effects, which are compounded when you take
them together. Some medications, such as metronidazole (Flagyl) and trimethoprim-

How does a physician decide which antibiotic to prescribe?

Physicians examine patients and consider their symptoms in order to tell if they should prescribe an
antibiotic and, if so, which one. Physicians can also take a culture to see if bacteria are causing a particular
illness, such as a throat culture to determine the presence of "strep throat." For hospital infections and some
community-acquired infections, the doctor will obtain an "antimicrobial susceptibility report" that indicates
which families of antibiotic drugs are useful for the particular bacteria recovered from the infection. If the
cause of the infection is unclear, but suspected to be due to bacteria, the doctor may prescribe a broad-
spectrum antibiotic that is useful for controlling a wide variety of bacterial types. The physician may choose
either a generic or trade-name (non-generic) antibiotic depending on the individual circumstances.

What should women know before taking antibiotics?

o Antibiotics often lead to a vaginal yeast infection. Because antibiotics kill the normal bacteria in the
vagina, yeast no longer have competition for food and grow rapidly. Yeast cells begin attacking tissues
in the vagina, usually causing one or all of the following symptoms: itching, burning, pain during sex
and vaginal discharge. If you think you have a yeast infection, consult a physician.
o Antibiotics may reduce the efficacy of birth control pills.

As with other medications, some antibiotics may be transmitted to a fetus, and some may cause harm.
Therefore, you should never take antibiotics without your doctor's knowledge if you are pregnant or nursing
If you take antibiotics unnecessarily you may contribute to the development of antibiotic resistance. If you
become sick and. your bacteria are resistant to your prescribed antibiotic, your illness lasts longer and you
may have to make return office and pharmacy visits to find the right drug to kill the germ. For more serious
infections it is possible that you would need to be hospitalized or could even die if the infection could not be
stopped. Also, while the resistant bacteria are still alive, you act as a carrier of these germs, and you could
pass them to friends or family members.

How to Reduce the Side Effects of Antibiotics?

Take Antibiotics as Directed

Some antibiotics should be taken only with water. But many others need to be taken with food, which can
increase their absorption and ward off an upset stomach a common side effect of antibiotics
sulfamethoxazole (Bactrim) can trigger more severe reactions when taken with alcohol,

Nausea and vomiting
Increased heart rate

Take a Probiotic

Many antibiotics can cause soft stools or diarrhea. Thats because they may kill some good
bugs along with the bad, throwing off the delicate balance of bacteria in your gut. Research has
shown that people who take probiotics are 42 percent less likely to develop diarrhea than those
who dont take these beneficial bacteria. Although more studies are needed, it cant hurt and
might help to take a probiotic supplement, as well as to eat probiotic foods like yogurt and

Talk to Your Doctor

Contact your physician if you develop more serious side effects of antibiotics, including:

Severe watery diarrhea

White patches on your tongue
Vaginal itching or discharge
Allergic reactions, such as a rash, shortness of breath, and swelling of the lips or tongue