It’s not uncommon for a patient to visit the doctor, get a prescription for an antibiotic, and then leave the medication sitting in their medicine cabinet as soon as they start to feel better. You may have heard that finishing an antibiotic is critical to your health, but just how important is it?
Antibiotics are used to treat bacterial infections. They help to reduce unpleasant symptoms and can help to prevent the spread of disease. However, some strains of bacteria can stop being affected by an antibiotic. The bacterium can change so that it is protected from the antibiotic, and can even help other bacteria to survive. This situation, called antibiotic resistance, is partly caused by overusing or misusing antibiotics.
When to Take Antibiotics
One of the most efficient ways to prevent antibiotic resistance is to avoid taking them when they are not necessary. For example, antibiotics should not be used for viruses. In these situations, the antibiotic will actually attack the good bacteria in your body. Some doctors mistakenly prescribe antibiotics before test results re ready, and other times, patients can take old, leftover antibiotics when they shouldn’t.
Antibiotics are not effective for the flu, colds, the majority of sore throats (unless its strep throat, a bacterial infection), bronchitis, and some sinus infections.
Finishing an Antibiotic
It is very important to make sure that antibiotics are taken as prescribed. You are given the exact number that you need to treat your bacterial infection. Do not stop taking the medicine when you feel better, because you still need to kill the bacteria that is present.
If you miss a dose of your antibiotic, be sure to ask your doctor for advice. If you do need to stop taking an antibiotic for any reason, discard of the medication and avoid keeping it for later use.