Some Things You Need to Know About Antibiotics

What are antibiotics?

The term Antibiotics is a misnomer. They should be actually called antibacterial medication. Since the term antibiotic is widely used, it is now the term that most people use when referring to them.

They are medicines that act against bacteria. They are effective only against bacteria. Those medications that are used against viruses, parasites etc are termed antiviral, antipararsitic medication.

Antibiotics are responsible for saving millions of lives. In the era before antibiotics were discovered millions of people either succumbed to trivial infections that went out of control or were near death and were severely debilitated following an infection.

A simple cold resulted in a life threatening respiratory tract infection which often resulted in death.

Penicillin was the first antibiotic to be discovered. It is the product of an fungi. Penicillin is credited with saving many lives during world war two.

How do antibiotics act?

Antibiotics act by damaging the cell wall of the bacteria. They can also impede the DNA repair of bacteria.

How are Antibiotics given?

They can be given orally, intravenously. They can be applied topically as an ointment or cream or available as drops.

How do doctors decide which antibiotic to give?

Doctors usually decide on the choice of antibiotic depending on which part of the body is affected and therefore the likely bacteria that is causing the infection. They will try to retrieve a sample of the pus to identify the bacteria causing the infection. They will send the pus sample for gram staining, special staining if needed and they will also culture the bacteria in order to identify it and the medicines that will kill the bacteria and those medicines to which the bacteria is resisstent.

Until the report arrives ( the gram stain report is given quickly, but the culture report make take some time) each hospital will have its own protocol according to which the protocol will decide which antibiotic can be given under the circumstances.

Why do most antibiotics need to be given for 5 to 7 days?

Most bacteria are killed within the first two doses. However some bacteria can survive and become resistant to the antibiotic. So the antibiotic is given to ensure that almost all the bacteria that are causing the infection are killed.

It must be remembered that there may be two or more bacteria causing the infection. This will necessitate that the course of the antibiotic be given for 7 days.

What is meant by bacteriostatic and bacteriocidal antibiotics?

Bacteriostatic antibiotics paralyze the bacteria allowing the body’s white blood cells to engulf the bacteria and remove them. The bacteria are paralyzed and cannot fight back. This allows the body’s white blood cells to attack them without being neutralized by the bacteria’s defense mechanisms. Bacteriocidal antibiotics kill the bacteria which are then removed by the body’s white blood cells.

How are antibiotics removed from the body?

They are removed from the body via the liver or kidneys. The liver and kidneys can be damaged by the antibiotics and thus each antibiotic has its own profile and its advantages and disadvantages.

Can antibiotics be given during pregnancy?

The first 3 months ( the first trimester) is the most important for the developing fetus and so antibiotics should be avoided as they can damage the developing fetus.

All antibiotics should have the approval of the gynecologist before being taken during pregnancy. Some antibiotics can be given safely in the third trimester. All antibiotics given during pregnancy should be approved by the Gynecologist supervising the persons pregnancy.

Do antibiotics have dangerous side effects?

Yes they can have dangerous side effects. The side effects can be life threatening. All persons should duly report to their physicians if they know that they have an allergy to a particular medication.

Can Antibiotics cause weakness?

They can do so indirectly by causing the appetite to be affected. Usually the weakness that results is the weakness caused by the infection for which the antibiotic was given.

Can antibiotics be given along with other medication?

Yes they can be given. However there are some medication that cannot be given along with antibiotics. It is therefore important to inform the treating doctor of the other medication being taken. Only then can the doctor decide if the antibiotic can be given along with other medication.

Does Vitamin B need to be given along with antibiotics?

Probiotics are found to be much more effective by lessening the chances of a vitamin B deficiency. Probiotics also reduce the chances of diarrhea that can occur when an antibiotic is given.

Is there any such thing as a strong antibiotic?

No there is no such thing as a strong antibiotic. Antibiotics are decided by which generation they belong to, to what family they belong to, the dosage and the duration for which they are given.

Why is there so much resistance by bacteria to antibiotics?

Mutation by bacteria to antibiotics is there natural resistance to fight against the substance that is seeking to destroy them. To ensure that bacterial resistance is low take the antibiotic in exactly the same way that your well trained doctor has prescribed.

Antibiotics save millions of lives all over the world. Each antibiotic is unique and has its own profile of pro’s and con’s. The doctor puts into consideration a whole list of factors before prescribing them. Adhere to these guidelines and very likely you will recover from the infection for which the antibiotic was prescribed. Literature on the antibiotic, its mode of action, safety profile and other information is available in the pack in which the antibiotic is placed is available for scrutiny.

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