When it comes to taking antibiotics, it may seem obvious that you should follow the instructions included with the medication. Many people, however, fail to follow these instructions properly, skipping doses and ceasing treatment before all medication has been taken. Some even self-medicate, using leftover antibiotics to treat future illnesses for which the drugs may not actually be appropriate. While these actions may seem inconsequential, they can have a significant impact, increasing the resistance of illness-causing bacteria which can in turn prolong or exacerbate your illness, and spread it to others. To prevent these harmful repercussions, you should follow your physician’s instructions exactly each time you take antibiotics.
One of the most common mistakes people make when they take antibiotics is skipping doses or ceasing treatment altogether when they begin to feel better. Antibiotics are primarily used to treat bacterial illnesses such as strep throat or urinary tract infections. As the drugs begin to eliminate the illness-causing bacteria, you may begin to feel healthy again and decide to reduce your dosage or even stop taking the medicine.
The problem here is that, although your symptoms have disappeared, some of the illness-causing bacteria may remain in your system. These remaining bacteria can then grow resistant to antibiotic treatment, potentially leading to a host of problems. First of all, you may unwittingly spread these newly resistant bacteria to those around you, causing them to become ill. In addition, your own illness may continue and even worsen. As the bacteria causing the illness no longer respond to the antibiotic originally prescribed for their treatment, your doctor will likely have to implement more aggressive treatment methods, which can be both invasive and costly.
When you cease taking antibiotics before you have finished the prescription, you may be tempted to save time and money by using the leftover medication to treat future illnesses. This practice can be useless and even harmful, however. Many common illnesses, such as colds and influenza, are caused by viral infections which, unlike bacterial infections, do not respond to antibiotics. Thus, if you are suffering from a virus, taking antibiotics will not improve your health. Unless you are a medical expert, you should always consult a physician to determine the source of your illness, and should only take antibiotics that have been specifically prescribed for that illness.
In addition, if you take antibiotics for non-bacterial illnesses, you may be doing more than simply wasting your time. Taking these drugs when you do not have a bacterial infection can lead them to become less effective when you do. Antibiotic failure is a serious issue that affects the entire world. As bacteria grow more resistant to these drugs, doctors must continually devise new strategies to combat them. Next time you take antibiotics, remember to follow the instructions exactly, as failure to do so can harm you, your loved ones, and the wider world.