Antibiotics: What everyone should be aware


Antibiotics, also called antibacterials, are medicines used to treat infections or diseases caused by bacteria such as strep throat, ear infections, urinary tract infections, and sinus infections.


Antibiotic resistance has become a major clinical and public health problem across the world. The main driving factor contributing to antibiotic resistance is antibiotic abuse. Learn more below about how to use antibiotics for common infections, and the potential harms of using this medicines.

Antibiotics don’t work for one who has a cold or flu

Are you aware that colds, flu, most sore throats, tonsillitis, bronchitis, and many sinus and ear infections are caused by viruses? Did you know that antibiotics do not work against viruses? For the vast majority of common respiratory infections, it won’t help.

Antibiotics cure bacterial infections, not viral infections such as:

  • Colds or flu
  • Most coughs and bronchitis
  • Most sore throats (not strep)
  • Runny noses and sinus infection
  • Many middle ear infections.

Taking antibiotics for viral infections will not:

  • Treat the infection
  • Protect other people from catching the illness
  • Make you feel better


Antibiotics Can Cause More Harm than Good

Taking antibiotics for viral infections may do more harm than good:

  • Taking antibiotics puts you at higher risk of getting an antibiotic-resistant infection later.
  • Antibiotics kill the healthy bacteria in the gut, allowing more harmful bacteria, such as Clostridium difficile, a severe inflammation of the colon that results in diarrhea and other intestinal symptoms, to develop in its place.
  • Antibiotics result in a severe reaction necessitating a trip to hospital emergency rooms, cause one out of five emergency department visits for adverse drug events.

You’re recommended to only take them for bacterial infections as they can put you at risk of harmful side effects and antibiotic-resistant infections.

What are the side-effects of antibiotics?

The most common side-effects of antibacterials include:

  • It occurs due to eradication of the normal gut flora by the antibiotic and results in an overgrowth of infectious bacteria. Five to twenty-five percent of patients may suffer from antibiotic-associated diarrhea.
  • Feeling and being sick.
  • Fungal infections of the mouth, digestive tract and vagina.

These side effects are usually mild and should pass once you finish your course of treatment.

Some rare side-effects of antibacterials include:

  • Kidney stone formation (when taking sulphonamides).
  • Abnormal blood clotting condition (when taking some cephalosporins).
  • Sensitivity to sun (when taking tetracyclines).
  • Blood disorders (when taking trimethoprim).
  • Deafness (when taking erythromycin and the aminoglycosides).
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