SAN FRANCISCO, CA/ Troy Media/ THUNDER BAY, ONTARIO /LSN / March 28, 2015 --- Antibiotics are important medications; without them, diseases like strep, pneumonia and syphilis can be fatal. However, when antibiotics are overused or not taken exactly as prescribed, serious complications can occur. What's more, even when used properly, some antibiotics are associated with serious side effects, some of which can have lasting effects on health and well-being.
Keep reading for more information on antibiotics, including tips on protecting yourself from the risks associated with these medications.
When should you take antibiotics?
Antibiotics are used strictly in the treatment of bacterial infections. When an infection occurs due to a virus, antibiotic drugs are ineffective, and can lead to harmful complications. The thing is, bacterial and viral infections often produce similar symptoms. For example, cough, fever, and muscle aches are symptomatic of numerous illnesses, both viral and bacterial. In fact, viruses and bacterial infections are so similar medical testing is often required to tell the difference between the two. However, common illnesses like the following are typically viral, and are not treatable with antibiotic medications:
- The common cold.
- Stomach flu.
- Chicken pox.
- Most upper respiratory infections.
The risks of misusing antibiotics
When antibiotic drugs are misused, a number of complications can occur. For example, when these medications are used too frequently, patients can develop a resistance to antibiotics. When this happens, disease-causing bacteria becomes resistant to antibiotic drugs, which can result in infection that's difficult, or even impossible, to treat. This means longer and more frequent hospital visits, as well as the need for stronger, and sometimes toxic, medications.
In some cases, the effects of overuse can be severe. In many cases, the over-prescription of Levaquin, an antibiotic used to treat meningitis and other serious illnesses, has resulted in nerve damage and other lasting effects. Antibiotics are also associated with complications like organ damage, blood disorders, allergic reaction and more.
Although antibiotics are associated with a number of risks, there are ways you can protect yourself from misuse. Tips like the following can help:
- Talk to your doctor. If you develop a viral infection like the flu or common cold, ask your doctor about alternative therapies. Symptoms like fever, sore throat and muscle aches can often be addressed through natural or over-the-counter methods, which can reduce discomfort and help boost immunity.
- Take care of yourself. When it comes to viral infections, preventative measures can go a long way in protecting health and wellness. Eat a nutrient-rich diet, get plenty of sleep, and avoid germs whenever possible, especially during cold and flu season.
- Take medications as prescribed. If you are given an antibiotic, take your medication exactly as prescribed. Finish your prescription, and follow instructions regarding food, beverages, sunlight, etc.
- Ask questions. Ask your doctor or pharmacist about possible side effects and complications. If you're informed of the risks, you're better equipped to identify and address potential problems.
- Consider a flu vaccine. Flu vaccines can be extremely effective. Ask your doctor if getting vaccinated is right for you.
Remember, antibiotics play an important role in public health and welfare. In fact, when it comes to treating certain illnesses, antibiotics are invaluable. However, as with most medications, there are risks associated with these types of drugs. With the information provided here, you can prevent the misuse of antibiotics, and reduce your risk of developing harmful complications.
By Rachel Matthews