Antibiotic do's and don'ts

June 24, 2014

Antibiotics are designed to combat bacterial infections, including pneumonia, bladder infections, strep throat and tuberculosis.

Antibiotics do nothing for viral infections, including influenza, the common cold and bronchitis.

Using antibiotics appropriately and as directed can help fight the growing global threat of antibiotic resistance, says UC Irvine Health family physician Dr. Emily Dow.

Dow’s do’s and don’ts for taking antibiotics include:

  • DO take the entire course of medication. Stopping your medication as soon as you feel better is one way to develop a resistance to the antibiotic, she cautions. The bacteria begin to die off as you take the medication; stopping too soon makes the bacteria return even stronger than before.
  • DO take the medication as directed. If the prescription says to take the antibiotic three times a day, take it three times a day. Don’t skip doses.
  • DO listen when your primary care physician says you don’t need an antibiotic.
  • DON’T share your medication. This can delay appropriate treatment and lead to resistance.
  • DON’T save your medication for later. “Some people hold onto medications they didn’t finish. The next time they get sick, they take the leftovers,” says Dow. The medication may not be the right kind to treat the infection, it may have expired or it may not be enough to effectively kill the bacteria.
  • DON’T take antibiotics to prevent an infection. Antibiotics do nothing to ward off bacterial diseases. “There are still people out there who say they need an antibiotic because they’re going on a trip and don’t want to get sick,” says Dow. “That’s not the right way to go about treating your illness.”

—Heather Shannon, UC Irvine Health Marketing & Communications

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