Antibiotics

Antibiotics

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Important Safety Information

Antibiotics are prescription medications used to treat infections caused by bacteria. They work by preventing bacterium that has entered your body from reproducing. This is crucial to note, as antibiotics won’t have any effect on infections caused by viruses.

Some of the most common ailments that are treated with antibiotics include bacterial pneumonia, meningitis, bladder, kidney, or urinary tract infections, streptococcal pharyngitis, acne, bronchitis, conjunctivitis, and ear, dental, or skin infections.

Antibiotics are among the most commonly prescribed medications. The most common ones include penicillin, sulfonamides, fluoroquinolones, cephalosporin, tetracyclines, and aminoglycosides. These may interfere with the effectiveness of other medications. Talk to your doctor about all drugs you’re currently taking — regardless of whether they’re prescription, over the counter, herbal supplements, or vitamins.

One of the most common reasons for visits to emergency rooms all over the country is allergic reactions to antibiotics. They can range from mild to severe. The best way to lower this risk is to minimize their use and to tell your doctor about your medical history and known allergies.

What is the most important information I should know about antibiotics?

When taking antibiotics, it’s crucial to take them exactly as prescribed — even if you’re starting to feel better. Failing to do so may cause resistance to or allow for the bacterial infection to return. It’s also important to be as specific as possible when telling your doctor about your symptoms. This is the best way for them to narrow down what may be causing you to feel sick — and determine whether your infection is bacterial or viral. This includes discussing all symptoms, how long you’ve had them, as well as the exact degrees of fever (if you’re aware of it). If you don’t know your temperature, gauge whether it seems like a low-grade fever or something more severe. If your doctor is unsure, you’ll undergo blood or urine testing.

In addition, not all antibiotics are effective against all types of bacterial infections. Your doctor will prescribe different types of antibiotics depending on your medical condition.

Side Effects of Antibiotics

As with any prescription medication, antibiotics carry the risk of side effects. And, since antibiotics affect bacteria, they could also interfere with the good bacteria in your digestives system. As a result, the most common side effects include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Abdominal pain
  • Bloating
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

In rare cases, you may experience more serious side effects — especially if you’re having an allergic reaction. These include:

  • Dizziness
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Coughing or wheezing
  • Skin rash
  • Swelling of the face, tongue, and/or lips

Tell your doctor immediately if you believe you may be having an allergic reaction. They may then refer you to an allergy specialist for testing.

Tell your doctor if you experience any negative side effects. You are also encouraged to report such side effects to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) by visiting www.fda.gov/medwatch, or by calling 1-800-FDA-1088.