How do I know if I need antibiotics?

How do I know if I need antibiotics?

Antibiotics come in many forms and appear to be versatile when it comes to treating infections, however, it is a misconception that all infections have bacteria. There is a myriad of organisms that can cause infection. When a bacterium is identified as the culprit, only then can we consider using antibiotics. 

The body is riddled with good bacteria that aid in digestion, production of vitamins, and create a necessary pH balance. Using antibiotics can also kill off these bacteria and disrupt the good work they do for us, which is why we must be conservative in the frequency of antibiotic use. 

Antibiotics DO NOT work on viruses, such as those that cause:

  • Colds and runny noses, even if the mucus is thick, yellow, or green
  • Most sore throats (except strep throat)
  • Flu
  • Stomach flu (gastroenteritis)
  • Most cases of chest colds (bronchitis)
  • Chicken pox/shingles

Antibiotics ONLY treat certain infections caused by bacteria, such as:

  • Strep throat
  • Whooping cough
  • Urinary tract infection (UTI)
  • Meningitis
  • Skin boils (furuncles) 

Keep in mind, if your health care provider determines that you do need antibiotics, it is imperative that you finish the dose, because the benefit of killing off ALL the harmful bacteria outweighs the risk of getting rid of SOME of the good ones. Stopping antibiotics early against medical advice leaves behind the strongest harmful bacteria that are free to replicate and come back for a vengeance. In the case that you must stop them early, ask your local pharmacist how to dispose them, do not flush them or keep them for later use. 

This article reviewed by Dr. Jim Liu, MD and Ms. Deb Dooley, APRN.

There’s nothing more important than our good health – that’s our principal capital asset.

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