What antibiotic is used to treat an UTI? What antibiotics are used to treat a sinus infection? How about strep throat? If I can find it online or a find a friend who has some, I’ll be better, right? Wrong.
Antibiotics can be life-saving and essential, but they can be dangerous if taken improperly. Here are 5 reasons NOT to take un-prescribed antibiotics, meaning antibiotics not prescribed specifically for you.
All antibiotics are not the same, nor do they all treat every infection.
Well, first, all bacteria aren’t the same. Bacteria live in different environments and feed off of different things. Some bacteria live in environments without oxygen, while some need oxygen to live. Some have cell walls that are super strong and others not so much. Because of these difference, antibiotics need to use different strategies to kill them.
If you use the wrong antibiotic to try to kill a bacteria, you will not kill that bacteria, but you will kill other bacteria that your body may need, like bacteria in your bowels, vagina etc. That can harm you by leaving your body at risk for bacterial imbalances that cause new problems.
Bacteria need to be treated for a specific amount of time to die. Otherwise you’ll develop antibiotic resistance.
Let’s think about this like a pest infestation. If you have ever had an ant problem, you know that you need to treat the pest area for a certain amount of time before they will all be gone. Say you do get your hands on the correct antibiotic to treat whatever your suspected infection is, if you don’t take enough of that antibiotic, some of the bacteria will die, but the ones that don’t die will learn how to not die. They will evolve.
This is much in the same way that ants or other pests will learn that certain bait isn’t food, but instead it is poison. If you don’t kill them all, you will inadvertently create smarter, stronger pests. Bacteria are the same way. This is how antibiotic resistance forms. Then, then next time that you need an antibiotic for a specific infection, you may find that the bacteria doesn’t die at all.
If you take too much of an antibiotic, it can be toxic.
Much like any medication, the right amount will often serve the purpose, but too much may damage your liver, your kidneys, or interact with other organs or other medications you may be taking. Taking more than you need, doesn’t ensure that the bacteria will die, because often if they don’t die when using the set amount, the bacteria won’t die at all.
If you are treated presumptively for an infection without being examined, say through a telephone consult or telemedicine location, make sure that you take the complete course of antibiotics but no more or less.
OLD antibiotics don’t work they way they should and can be harmful.
If you are considering taking someone else’s old antibiotics, know that medications expire just like foods do. Medications are meant to be stable for a set period of time. That means that the structure and function of molecules will maintain for a period of time before it begins to break down. Once they start to break down, though the pills will LOOK the same, they won’t work the same. They may not work at all, or they may even become dangerous.
Pills have numbers, sizes and colors based on type and dosage, but they still may be difficult to identify. A person who thinks a medication is one type, may be wrong and it may be a completely different type. I, for one, wouldn’t want to rely on someone’s memory of which antibiotic they still had some of.
Also, shame on whoever it was who didn’t take all of their antibiotics and had leftovers. It is common to feel better soon after starting a course of antibiotics. That is because some of the bacteria has died, but likely not all of them. Remember what I said earlier.
“Bacteria need to be treated for a specific amount of time to die. Otherwise you’ll develop antibiotic resistance.”
You should never “save some antibiotics for later.” Not only will you inadequately treat the current infection, but you will also invite a recurrent infection by the left over bacteria that you will also inadequately treat with the improper amount of antibiotics.
Not every infection needs antibiotics.
Viruses cause many infections, like the cold and many ear infections. A healthcare professional can help diagnose what infections need antibiotics vs ones that need symptom relief and time.
Also, specifically in the women’s health arena, some infections like recurrent yeast or BV can be treated with Boric Acid, which can be purchased commercially. Boric acid suppositories can also be used as prevention. It is also important that they be used properly and kept away from children and small pets.
So what antibiotic is used for this?
The next time someone asks you for left-over antibiotics or your find yourself searching the internet for which antibiotics to take, think about this article. I know seeing a healthcare provider can be costly, but your health and safety are worth way more than the price of your copay.
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I am a board certified Obstetrician and Gynecologist with an interest in breaking down health and life topics to gain logical understanding. Be prepared for a vagina or two along the way. What can I say? I’m a gynecologist. Learn more about me at dreverywoman.com