Antibiotics – Uses, Types and Side Effects

Antibiotics are powerful medications that are used to treat a variety of conditions. However, in order to be effective, they must be used according to a doctor’s instructions. When used properly, antibiotics can provide relief from symptoms and they can even save lives. The following information can help people talk to their doctors about the proper use of these medications.

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Uses of Antibiotics

When a person is exposed to certain types of bacteria, they may develop an infection. An infection is a concentrated amount of bacteria that can grow and spread in the human body, causing symptoms like fever, swelling, and rashes. Antibiotics destroy these harmful bacteria, providing relief for the patient by eliminating the infection and reducing symptoms. Antibiotics do not work for illnesses like colds and flu that are caused by viruses.

Types of Antibiotics

There are many different types of antibiotics which are used to treat conditions caused by different strains of bacteria. Some antibiotics are more effective against particular types of bacteria. A doctor will be able to prescribe the appropriate antibiotic for a particular infection by examining the symptoms that a patient is experiencing. In some cases, it may be necessary to try more than one medication to treat an infection.

Infections can develop after bacteria take hold in the body. Some common types of infections include:

  • Ear infections
  • Infected wounds such as cuts or scrapes
  • Infection of an internal organ
  • Infections that are complications of other illnesses

Antibiotics are effective against bacterial infections but they are not effective against other types of illnesses. For example, antibiotics do not treat viral illnesses, such as the flu. This is why it’s very important to be examined by a doctor before beginning an antibiotic treatment.

Types of Antibiotics

There are several different types of antibiotics that are used in a variety of situations. Some of the most commonly prescribed antibiotics include:

  • Penicillin
  • Tetracycline
  • Amoxicillin
  • Azithromycin

Each antibiotic is intended to treat a specific type of infection. For example, an antibiotic that is great for treating an infected wound may not work as well for treating an internal infection. Doctors will typically assess a patient’s infection by locating the source of their symptoms. Infection symptoms are often located near the source of the infection itself.

Once a doctor has determined the probable source of the infection, an appropriate antibiotic can be prescribed. If the prescribed medication does not have the desired effect, another antibiotic may be prescribed in order to alleviate the infection more effectively.

Common Infection Symptoms

Bacterial infections can cause a wide array of symptoms. These symptoms can range from mildly uncomfortable to severely painful and potentially life-threatening. A bacterial infection can cause symptoms like:

  • Swelling
  • Aches or pains
  • Redness of the skin
  • Itching
  • Accumulation of pus
  • Coughing or wheezing
  • Fever or sweating
  • Dark colored mucus or excessive sneezing

Not all infections will cause these symptoms. A doctor’s examination may be necessary to find the cause of other types of symptoms.

How Antibiotics Work

Antibiotics are an effective treatment for bacterial infections because of their method of action. They work by killing off the bacterial cells that are causing the infection. They can help support the body’s own immune system response when an infection becomes too much for the body to handle.

Side Effects and Precautions

Antibiotics are not used in every case of an infection. Some antibiotics can cause side effects or complications that may make the situation worse. A doctor can determine if a patient is healthy enough to use a course of antibiotics. Some reasons to avoid using antibiotics include:

  • An infection caused by a virus rather than by bacteria
  • A patient who is pregnant or breastfeeding
  • A patient with an infection that is not severe enough for treatment

Other medications that may interfere with the antibiotic

  • Kidney disease or impaired kidney function
  • A patient who is allergic to antibiotics

Antibiotics may cause different types of side effects. Common side effects can include fatigue, nausea or diarrhea. Doctors commonly advise their patients to take antibiotics with food and water to prevent these side effects.

Some antibiotics may also kill off healthy, good bacteria that live in the human body. This can lead to problems in the bowel of the patient. If a patient notices itching or discharge in the vagina or in the bowels, a doctor should be consulted immediately. Also, white patches on the tongue can be a sign of thrush caused by the loss of healthy bacteria.

Hives, swelling, fever, cramps or vomiting after taking an antibiotic may be signs of a severe allergic reaction. A doctor should be consulted immediately if these symptoms occur and a trip to the emergency room may be necessary.

How to Take Antibiotics

It’s very important to take antibiotics according to a doctor’s instructions. This can include taking an antibiotic with food and water, taking an antibiotic at a certain time of the day and avoiding certain medications while taking the antibiotic. It’s also important to take the entire amount of antibiotics prescribed. Failing to take the entire course of the medication could cause the infection to return or cause other complications.

Antibiotics should never be taken without a doctor’s prescription and old antibiotics should not be taken if new symptoms develop at a later time.

Consulting a doctor is the best way to get the right medication for any symptoms. Doctors can prescribe the right medication so that the symptoms can be relieved quickly and effectively.

If you are experiencing an emergency, visit SignatureCare Emergency Center locations to receive the best care from our team of board-certified emergency room physicians.