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Antibiotics are medicines that are used to treat several diseases or infections caused by bacteria. Antibiotics that affect a large range of bacteria are referred to as broad-spectrum antibiotics. If the antibiotics affect only a few types of bacteria it is called as narrow spectrum antibiotics.

The first antibiotic was penicillin. Penicillin related antibiotics such as amoxicillin, ampicillin and benzylpenicillin are widely used to treat various infections. At present different types of modern antibiotics have come up and purchases of antibiotics online can be done very easily.

What do antibiotics do?

Antibiotics block the vital processes in bacteria, and after that either kill the bacteria or stop them from multiplying. Because of this the body's natural immune system can fight any bacterial infection. The type of antibiotic used will depend on the type of bacteria they work against. Different types of antibiotics work in different ways. For example, taking penicillin will result in destroying bacterial cell walls, while other antibiotics can affect the way the bacterial cell works. Hence while choosing an antibiotic the doctor first identify the bacteria that is causing the particular infection. Some time even a test is done so as to identify the exact type of bacteria that is causing the infection.

Types of antibiotics

Antibiotics are medicines that are used to treat diseases or infections caused by bacteria. There are various antibiotic medicines that have come up to treat different types of bacterial infection. The antibiotic that will be prescribed to you will depend on what infection you are suffering from and the type of bacteria causing it. Some of the names of antibiotics that are used in various treatments are:

  • Aminoglycoside antibiotics
  • Cephalosporin antibiotics
  • Macrolide antibiotics
  • Penicillin antibiotics
  • Quinolone antibiotics
  • Tetracycline antibiotics
  • Other antibiotics

This is not a complete list of antibiotics. There may be others too.

Side effects of antibiotics

Like all the medicines antibiotics if taken come with its share of side effects. Some of the common antibiotics side effects include:

  • Diarrhoea, nausea and vomiting: The most common antibiotics side effects are problems related to stomach such as vomiting, nausea and diarrhoea. This happens because taking antibiotics can cause the gut lining to become inflamed and can also disturb the good or the bad bacteria in the gut.
  • Thrush: This infection is caused by the yeast Candida albicans which lives in the body and vagina but is harmless. Under normal circumstances it is kept in control by the immunity system and other bacteria ain the body. However, taking antibiotics can result in upsetting the normal balance of bacteria in the body and also vagina and allow candida to grow causing thrush.
  • Clostridium difficile-associated disease: Together with many bacteria, Clostridium difficile is also a bacterium that is found in the gut of many people. All such bacteria live in balance together. However, if you are taking antibiotic to treat any of the infection you are suffering from, the antibiotic may kill such bacteria causing the infection and also some of the good bacteria that are there in your gut, but it does not kill C. difficile. Because of this it allows C. difficile bacteria to thrive and multiply and then it may lead to C. difficile-associated disease.
  • Allergic reactions: Taking some antibiotics may result in hypersensitive or allergic reactions such as fever, hives, breathing problems and so on.


The precautions that should be taken while taking antibiotics are:

  • Overdose of antibiotics should not be taken
  • Antibiotics should not be taken on an empty stomach
  • Antibiotics should be taken only after consulting a doctor
  • Completion of the dose of antibiotics is must
  • When antibiotics are taken by women it can cause yeast infection. This can result in rendering birth control pills ineffective. Hence a back up birth control should also be used.

Myths and facts:

There are various misconceptions about antibiotics. Some of such common myths are:

Myths: Antibiotics are good for cold

Fact: Antibiotics are only effective against infections caused by fungi, bacteria and some parasites. They however do not work against virus which causes flu, cough, sore throat and other such infection.

Myths: It is okay to stop the antibiotics early

Fact: If your physician advice you to take antibiotics, always take complete the dose and never stop early even if you feel better. Stopping early results in the infection not being eliminated in full. This can make you fall sick again.

Myths: Save the leftovers

Fact: It is not a good idea to save leftovers as some medicines especially liquids can lose their potency over time. The leftover medicines may not work against your latest illness and can even make it worse. Also, if the dose of antibiotic is taken roper there should be no leftovers.

Myths: Antibiotics are always effective

Fact: Even after taking antibiotics if the symptoms persist than you must alert your doctor. There is a chance that the germs because of which you became sick are resistant to the antibiotic you took. Hence you might need an alternative.

Steps to improve the health

When taking antibiotics one should take care of their health. Certain steps if followed will ensure improvement in health while taking the medicine:

  • Eat nutritious diet and include lots of fruits, vegetables in your diet.
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Get enough sleep
  • Do not indulge in high intensity activity
  • Avoid spicy food and it is best to follow a plain diet

What is antibiotic resistant

Antibiotic resistance is a situation that occurs when antibiotic has lost its ability to effectively kill or control bacterial growth. In other words the bacteria become resistant and they continue to multiply in the presence of an antibiotic. Though some bacteria are naturally resistant to few antibiotics, there are others which become resistant in either ways such as by acquiring resistance from another bacterium or by a genetic mutation.

Important things to know

  • If you are prescribed with antibiotics then you must follow the dose properly. Always complete the dose and never take more than the dose prescribed. If you do not complete the course of your antibiotics than the bacteria causing the infection becomes resistant to that antibiotic. Hence there is high chance that you suffer from the same infection again and the antibiotic will no longer be effective against it.
  • Do not keep unused antibiotics for taking it later. It should either be disposed off or returned to your pharmacy.
  • Do not share your antibiotics with anyone even if the person is suffering from the same symptoms
  • Take the medicine at the right time and for as long as directed by your doctor.
  • Antibiotics are of no use when it comes to treating viral infections. Many common respiratory tract infections such as fu, cold are caused by viruses. Here antibiotics are of no use.
  • Even after taking the full dose of the medicine if the symptoms still persist than you must visit your doctor again.

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