Antibiotics: Not Always the Best Medicine

Antibiotics are not always the best medicine when someone in your family is sick with an infection. It depends on what is causing the infection. Using antibiotics when you do NOT need them can cause antibiotics not to work when you DO need them.


What Causes Infections?

Two kinds of germs cause most infections: bacteria and viruses. Antibiotics only kill bacteria, NOT viruses. When do Antibiotics Work? Antibiotics may be used to successfully treat illnesses caused by bacteria. These include:

When Don't Antibiotics Work?

Antibiotics do NOT cure VIRAL illnesses such as:

How can you and your Doctor Work Together to Use Antibiotics Effectively?

You Should:

check When sick, ask the doctor whether the illness is caused by bacteria or a virus.

check Remember antibiotics can be effective against bacterial infections, but they won't work for illnesses caused by viruses.

check Share your questions and concerns about antibiotics with your doctor or pharmacist.

check If given an antibiotic, take or give it exactly as the doctor has instructed.

checkAsk about ways to feel better until the antibiotic starts to work.

check Take or give the antibiotic until it is gone, even if you feel better before finishing the medication.

You Should NOT :

x Expect or insist upon getting an antibiotic if you or your child has a viral infection such as a cold or the flu.

x Ask your doctor to prescribe antibiotics over the phone.

x Share Antibiotics with others or use leftover antibiotics.

What is antibiotic Resistance?

Each time we take antibiotics, the weakest forms of the bacteria causing the infection are killed. Some bacteria can change to defend themselves against the antibiotic. These germs are called "resistant". They can continue to live and grow even after an antibiotic is taken. Resistant bacteria emerge because of misuse of antibiotics.

Why do we care about antibiotic resistance?

Antibiotic resistance is a growing problem in our society and throughout the country. If we do not take action to prevent resistance, we put everyone at risk for potential health problems in the future. As bacteria continue to develop resistance, it becomes harder to find antibiotics that are strong enough to kill them. These resistant bacteria can spread to others and cause serious illness. Scientists will continue to make stronger antibiotics, but bacteria will continue to find ways to survive.

What can you do to prevent infection?

What can you do to feel better if you have a virus like the cold or flu?

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