HomeHealthThe dos and don'ts of taking antibiotics

The dos and don’ts of taking antibiotics

Antibiotics are a class of chemical compounds formulated to fight disease-causing bacterial microorganisms. They are undoubtedly one of the most important discoveries of modern medicine and have revolutionised healthcare by effectively reducing the fatality rate of several infections.  

In 1928, the accidental discovery of penicillin by Sir Alexander Fleming led to the origin of antibiotics, ushering in a new era in medicine. Since then, countless antibiotics have been developed worldwide to target different types of bacteria.

Infectious diseases that previously had a very high mortality or disability rate, can now be treated easily. Bacterial pneumonia, a disease with a survival rate of just 20 per cent in 1937, had it dramatically increase to almost 85 per cent in 1964.

Antibiotics are also crucial for the prevention and treatment of infections during surgery or for people with low immunity. However, their effectiveness can be compromised when not used appropriately. Understanding the dos and don’ts of taking antibiotics is crucial for both effective treatment and safeguarding public health.

The dos of taking antibiotics

Understand when antibiotics are necessary

Antibiotics are designed to combat bacterial infections, but they are ineffective against viruses such as the common cold or flu. It’s important to only use antibiotics when prescribed by a healthcare professional who has confirmed a bacterial infection.

Tell your doctor if you take any other medication

Your doctor must know if you are on any other medications as this can interact with the mechanism of the antibiotics. In some cases, antibiotics react with blood thinner medicines such as Warfarin and make the patient susceptible to internal bleeding.

Take as prescribed

Always take antibiotics only if your healthcare provider has prescribed them. It is crucial to finish the entire course, even if the symptoms improve before completion. Not completing the course may cause a risk of recurrence and antibiotic resistance.

Take on time 

Maintain a consistent schedule for taking antibiotics. Set alarms or reminders if necessary to ensure you never miss a dose.

Store them correctly

Ensure that you store your antibiotics as per the instructions, usually in a cool, dry place. Incorrect storage can reduce the effectiveness of the medication.

Be aware of potential side-effects

Common side-effects of antibiotics include nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, and yeast infections. If you experience any of these, inform your doctor. For severe reactions such as anaphylaxis, seek immediate medical attention.

Be mindful of sun exposure

Some antibiotics can increase your sensitivity to sunlight, leading to a greater risk of sunburn. Limit your time in direct sunlight, wear protective clothing, and apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen when outdoors.

The don’ts of taking antibiotics

Don’t skip a dose

Never skip any dose. Skipping doses or stopping usage before the course ends can contribute to antibiotic resistance. Stopping a prescription early may mean that some harmful bacteria is still present in the body. Any remaining bacteria can become resistant and evolve to defeat the drug. If a person contracts the same disease again, this time, the drug may not be effective against the bacteria, posing a serious risk to their health.

Don’t drink alcohol

While some antibiotics may not have severe reactions with alcohol, it’s generally best to avoid alcohol when taking medication. Alcohol can reduce the effectiveness of antibiotics and exacerbate side-effects such as nausea and liver damage. Moreover, it can impair your sleep, which is vital for recovery. For antibiotics such as metronidazole, tinidazole, and Bactrim, alcohol must be strictly avoided as it can lead to severe reactions.

Don’t take antibiotics with milk or fruit juice

Dairy products and certain fruit juices can interfere with the absorption of antibiotics. It’s best to take your antibiotics with water and avoid dairy and citrus juices for at least three hours after taking your medication.

Don’t self-prescribe or use leftover antibiotics

Never use antibiotics without a prescription and avoid taking leftover antibiotics from a previous illness. Each antibiotic works specifically on a certain strain of bacteria and is prescribed based on a patient’s medical history. Always consult a healthcare professional before taking antibiotics for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan.

Don’t hesitate to discuss concerns with your doctor

If you have any concerns about taking antibiotics, such as potential side-effects or interactions with other medications, don’t hesitate to speak with your doctor. They can provide guidance and reassurance, ensuring that your treatment is as effective and comfortable as possible.

Following these dos and don’ts will help ensure that your antibiotics work effectively and safely. Making you feel better as quickly as possible.

Have you been prescribed antibiotics recently? Were you aware of these dos and don’ts? Let us know in the comments section below.

Also read: Why you should avoid antibiotics after 40

Disclaimer: This article contains general information about health issues and is not advice. For health advice, consult your medical practitioner.

Ellie Baxter
Ellie Baxter
Writer and editor with interests in travel, health, wellbeing and food. Has knowledge of marketing psychology, social media management and is a keen observer and commentator on issues facing older Australians.
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