Friday, November 30, 2012

Antibiotics - Useful Information On Their Use

Antibiotics – Things You Should Know

Antibiotics are among the most useful drugs available today, and also some of the most commonly prescribed.   They are a type of drugs called antibacterials, and can either kill bacteria, (Bactericidal) or stop their growth (Bacteriostatic). 

There are many diseases caused by bacteria such as tuberculosis, pneumonia, syphilis, etc… and antibiotics have been used with great success against these infections.  There are however many infections such as the common cold (and many upper respiratory infections) that are caused by viruses.  Antibiotics do not work against these viral infections, but many of us still go to the doctor and pressure him or her into prescribing antibiotics.  

Sometimes antibiotics are prescribed to prevent an infection (prophylactically) such as before orthopedic surgery or to prevent endocarditis in cases of artificial heart valve recipients.

Taking an antibiotic unnecessarily can increase the chances of creating resistant bacteria that are not affected by these drugs anymore,  it can also kill the normally harmless bacteria in the gastrointestinal system and lead to infections by opportunistic organisms such as yeast infections.  Taking them for only two or three days can also be harmful, as it may not be enough to get rid of the infection, and it may leave bacteria that are resistant to that antibiotic in the future.

One common misconception about antibiotics is that it is ok to take an antibiotic you found in the medicine cabinet that was prescribed to you or a family member.  The truth is that antibiotics need to be selected according to the bacteria you need to kill.  Taking the wrong antibiotic for an infection will not help to control it and may actually do more harm than good.

Let’s talk about side effects.  Like many other drugs, even the mildest antibiotics can have side effects.  The most common side effect happens when you take antibiotics for a long time.  The antibiotic starts to kill the naturally occurring bacteria in your digestive system that helps with food digestion and results in diarrhea.  Also associated with long term use is superinfection with opportunistic organisms such as yeast which can cause oral candidiasis (thrush) and vaginitis.

Another potential concern is the interaction with food and other drugs, for example, antibiotics may reduce the effectiveness of oral contraceptives, and drinking milk or antiacids may reduce the absorption of the tetracyclines .

In order to get the best results when taking antibiotics you should do the following:

·         Read the instructions on the label and take as directed

·         Read the accompanying information for side effects, precautions and interactions

·         Take the antibiotic until it is all gone

By taking antibiotics properly and only when indicated, we will be able to keep relying on these drugs to do a great job helping our bodies fight infections that at times could be life-threatening.

Carlos Boudet, DDS DICOI
1840 Forest Hill Blvd Suite 204
West Palm Beach, Florida. 33406
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