Infectious Diseases

How to tell if you need Antibiotics



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Antibiotics are potent medications designed to fight specific bacterial infections. The decision to take them should be made based on the recommendation of a physician with medical experience and expertise. A physician conducts a clinical assessment and then weighs the patient's presenting signs and symptoms to verify the possible diagnosis. He or she may decide to order laboratory tests and cultures to identify the offending microorganism. If it is a bacterial infection the cultures will identify the specific antibiotics the infection is most suceptible to. Because viruses are not susceptible to antibiotics, prescribing them is useless and may even lead to multi-drug resistance, a potentially dangerous situation for patients who do meet the clinical criteria for their use.

Many times patients pressure their physician to order antibiotics, believing they will help. This is not the case if the infection turns out to be a virus, if so it is best to respect the physician's advice and follow their recommendations for alternative methods of treatment aimed at reducing your symptoms and helping you to feel more comfortable

There are a few important tips to remember regarding antibiotics:

Do not take left over antibiotics. The drug ordered for one type of infection does not always work on every infection. Seek medical advice.

Do not take antibiotics prescribed for other members of the family or friends. Antibiotics are prescribed to be specific to the type of organism being treated. Randomly taking a few left over antibiotics not intended for your current infection has the potential to do you harm, and at the very least, contributes to future antibiotic resistance.

When you are prescribed antibiotics take all of the prescription, even if you feel better. When you stop taking the full amount of antibiotics prescribed, some of the bacteria remain; those that survive become stronger and over time mutate, becoming even more difficult to kill. These are the strains of bacteria that become antibiotic resistant.

Remember, antibiotics will not work on viruses like the common cold and influenza. Give your physician a complete description of your signs and symptoms.

Protect yourself and your family by practicing good hygiene. Get a flu shot and appropriate vaccinations if prescribed by your physician. Teach your family to wash their hands frequently, before eating, after visiting the rest room and after touching heavily trafficked areas such as play grounds, malls or large gatherings.

If you have signs and symptoms of an infection, see your physician. Physician are medically trained to interpret laboratory tests and to the appropriate choice of antibiotics specific to your infection.



The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has developed a campaign to prevent antibiotic resistance and to promote the appropriate use of antibiotics. This is a valuable resource; it can be found by using this link: http://www.cdc.gov/drugresistance/community/index

 

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