Antibiotics : When And How To Take Antibiotics ?


Some types of bacterial infections are treated or prevented with the help of antibiotics. They function by eradicating bacteria or stopping their spread. But not everybody can use them.

Numerous minor bacterial infections resolve on their own, often without the need for medications.

Colds, the flu, and the majority of coughs are viral diseases that cannot be treated with antibiotics.

Consider your doctor's guidance when deciding whether you require antibiotics. Antibiotic resistance is a major issue; if you use antibiotics when you don't need to, they may no longer be effective for you in the future.

When to take Antibiotics?

The following bacterial illnesses may be treated with antibiotics:

  • If they are unlikely to get better without antibiotics and may spread to others or take too long to get better without treatment, which increases the possibility of more serious problems.
  • Antibiotic prophylaxis, or giving antibiotics as a preventative measure to people who are at high risk of infection, is another option.


Follow the instructions on the packet, the patient information leaflet, your doctor's or pharmacist's prescription, or both, when taking antibiotics.

Most types of mild to moderate infections in the body can be treated with pills, capsules, or a liquid that you drink. 

Skin infections and eye or ear infections are frequently treated with creams, lotions, sprays, and drops.

Injections are used for more severe infections and can be administered intravenously or subcutaneously through a drip into the blood or muscle.

Side effects

Antibiotics may result in negative effects, just like other medication. If taken correctly, the majority of antibiotics have few, if any, significant adverse effects.

The usual side effects comprise:

  • Feeling unwell bloating and indigestion, as well as diarrhoea
  • Antibiotics, notably penicillin and another type of antibiotic known as cephalosporins, can cause allergic reactions in certain people.

This can, in extremely rare circumstances, result in a major allergic reaction (anaphylaxis), a medical emergency.

Get immediate medical assistance if:

  • You experience a skin rash that includes itchy, red, swollen, blistered, or peeling skin; 
  • Wheezing
  • Pressure in the chest or throat
  • Difficulty speaking or breathing
  • Mouth, face, lips, tongue, or throat swelling.

It is possible that you are having a serious allergic response and need emergency hospital care.


Antibiotics are prescribed by a doctor to treat bacterial infections. Viral defence is ineffective.

Effective treatment of an infection depends on knowing whether it is bacterial or viral.

Most upper respiratory tract illnesses, including the common cold and flu, are brought on by viruses. These viruses are not susceptible to antibiotics.

Antibiotics may cause germs to grow resistant if they are misused or overused. As a result of the bacterium being able to strengthen its defences, the antibiotic loses some of its effectiveness against that particular species of bacterium.

A broad-spectrum antibiotic can be prescribed by a doctor to treat a variety of ailments. A narrow-spectrum antibiotic works exclusively on a small number of bacteria.

While some antibiotics target anaerobic bacteria, others target aerobic bacteria. 

Anaerobic microorganisms lack oxygen, whereas aerobic bacteria have oxygen.

Important things to consider

Antibiotics come in a variety of forms, each of which function differently. However, the two primary things they do are:

The germs are eliminated with bactericidal antibiotics like penicillin. The bacterial cell wall or the contents of the cell are typically interfered with by these medications.

A bacteriostatic prevents bacterial growth.

After taking the initial dose, it could take a few hours or even days before someone feels better or their symptoms become better.

Particular medical conditions, as well as pregnant or nursing women, should not use certain antibiotics.

If you are expecting a baby or nursing, let your doctor know so they can choose the best antibiotic for you.

Never "steal" antibiotics from friends or family members; only ever take the ones that have been prescribed for you.

Some antibiotics interact poorly with other medications, such as the pill for birth control and alcohol.

Consult your pharmacist or doctor if you have any questions after carefully reading the information booklet that comes with your medication.

Types of Antibiotics

Antibiotics come in hundreds of distinct varieties, but the majority of them fall into one of six categories.

  • Penicillins are frequently used to treat a number of illnesses, including skin infections, chest infections, and urinary tract infections. 
  • Despite being used to treat a variety of illnesses, cephalosporins (like cefalexin) can also be used to treat more severe infections including sepsis and meningitis.
  • Since they can have serious side effects, including hearing loss and kidney damage, aminoglycosides (such as gentamicin and tobramycin) are typically only used in hospitals to treat very serious illnesses like sepsis. 
  • Doxycycline and lymecycline - are antibiotics that can be used to treat a variety of infections, but are most frequently used to treat rosacea and acne. 

Antibiotic resistance

Infections are no longer frequently treated with antibiotics.

This is due to:

  • Antibiotics are ineffective because viruses frequently cause illnesses.
  • Antibiotics can have negative effects and are frequently unlikely to hasten the healing process.
  • Antibiotics are more likely to become ineffective for treating more serious infections if they are used frequently to treat minor conditions.

Due to recent usage, antibiotics are becoming less effective, which has also led to the emergence of "superbugs."

These bacterial strains have evolved resistance to a wide range of antibiotics, including:

  • MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus)
  • The microorganisms known as Clostridium difficile (C. diff) are responsible for multidrug-resistant TB.

These infections, which are a growing source of illness and can be dangerous and difficult to cure, and they are a leading global cause of disability and mortality.

The largest concern is the possibility of new bacterial strains emerging that are resistant to all antibiotics currently in use.

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Page last reviewed: Mar 6, 2023

Next review due: Mar 6, 2025

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