But overuse has become a new health threat. It is now important to use antibiotics only when they are needed.
Here are some tips from the Centers for Disease Control that will help you use antibiotics wisely:
- Unnecessary antibiotics CAN harm you, leading to a serious infection that cannot be cured with antibiotics. This is contrary to what has been previously thought.
- Antibiotics are ineffective against a virus like the cold or the flu. Using them will NOT cure you, keep you from spreading it others or make you feel better.
- The more antibiotics prescribed for an individual, the higher the chance is that the person one day will be infected with resistant bacteria.
- If an antibiotic is prescribed, make sure you take the entire course of treatment. Stopping treatment too soon could lead to another unnecessary treatment of antibiotics.
- Never save antibiotics for later use.
- Never use antibiotics without consulting a doctor.
- Work with your doctor to use antibiotics only when they are needed. Your doctors will ask you questions and examine you to find the cause of your illness, then give you the proper care.
- Keep your doctor informed if the illness gets worse or lasts a long time, so that the proper treatment can be given, as needed. Occasionally, a viral infection will lead to a bacterial infection and antibiotics will be needed.
- Colds are caused by viruses and may sometimes last for two weeks or more. Antibiotics have no effect on colds, but your doctor may have suggestions for other comfort measures while the illness runs its course.
- Most sore throats are caused by viruses and do not respond to antibiotics. Only one main kind, "strep throat," requires antibiotics. This kind must be diagnosed by a laboratory test.
- There are several types of ear infections. Most need antibiotics, but some do not. Let your doctor determine which kind you or your child has.
- Children rarely need antibiotics for bronchitis. Have your doctor check your child’s cough and make this determination.
- Not all sinus infections need antibiotics, and most children with thick or green mucus do not have sinus infections. Antibiotics are needed only for some long-lasting or severe cases. The doctor should make this determination.
- If you or your child does become infected with a resistant bacteria, ordinary antibiotics will not help. Some resistant bacteria can be treated with more powerful medicines, which may need to be given intravenously at the hospital.
- Learn about the differences between bacterial and viral infections, and talk to your doctor about them. Understand that antibiotics should not be used for viral infections and do not pressure your doctor for a prescription