Before you ask your doctor for antibiotics, there are some important things you need to know about antibiotics. The discovery of antibiotics dates back to the 1920s when Alexander Fleming discovered that a certain type of mold could kill bacteria. The medication which he created out of this mold was called Penicillin, and it is still widely used today. Since the creation of Penicillin, many more antibiotics have been developed, and the use of antibiotics has skyrocketed. It is estimated that internists alone prescribe 1,416,000 prescriptions each week! With so many antibiotic prescriptions being written, it seems like there should not be any worries about taking antibiotics. However, antibiotics are powerful medications, and there are essential things you need to know about antibiotics before you take them.
One of the most crucial things you need to know about antibiotics is that they will not cure every illness. Antibiotics are only helpful when you have a bacterial infection. They will not help you get better any faster when you have a viral infection. Interestingly, most infections people get are viral, which means antibiotics will not help most of the time! Therefore, when your doctor tells you that you don’t need antibiotics, you need to respect his or her decision. It is better to let your doctor make the decision than to push for something you may not need, especially considering the fact that there are risks with taking antibiotics.
Using antibiotics too often increases the chances of creating antibiotic resistant bacteria. Antibiotic resistant bacteria are of great concern because they are very difficult to treat and can be quite dangerous. There have even been instances of people dying from antibiotic resistant bacteria. Because antibiotic resistant bacteria are so dangerous, it is essential to take steps to decrease your chances of developing an antibiotic resistant bacterial infection. You should only take antibiotics when you absolutely need them, and you should always take them as prescribed. Even if you feel better, you need to finish the antibiotics. Stopping antibiotics before the infection is cleared can lead to the development of a resistant strain, which is not something you want to have happen.
The word antibiotic literally translates into, “against life.” Antibiotics are not selective, which means they will kill both good and bad bacteria. Although killing the bad bacteria is desirable, destroying the good bacteria in your intestines can be harmful. You need the beneficial bacteria in your intestines in order to feel healthy. The good bacteria produce certain vitamins, keep harmful yeast from multiplying, and help your immune system function properly. If you do not have enough of these bacteria you can develop malabsorption, diarrhea, and even vitamin deficiencies, which is why it is important to make sure you have all the good bacteria in your intestines that your body needs. Since taking antibiotics will kill these bacteria, you should only take antibiotics if you absolutely need them. If you do need to take antibiotics, be sure to take a probiotic supplement as well. Just be sure to wait to take it at least four hours after you take your antibiotics. You don’t want the antibiotics to kill the probiotics.
Ironically, using antibiotics can make you more susceptible to diseases, because antibiotics lower your immunity. There are two main ways antibiotics decrease your immunity. First, antibiotics prevent your immune system from functioning properly. When you get sick your immune system produces antibodies to fight the illness, but taking antibiotics prevents your immune system from producing all the needed antibodies. As a result, your immune system will not be able to fight off diseases as well because it has not built up antibodies. Another reason using antibiotics lowers your immunity is because they kill the good bacteria in your intestines that help keep your immune system functioning. As you can see, it is possible to create a vicious cycle when you use antibiotics. The more you take antibiotics, the more you will need them because they weaken your immune system.
While taking antibiotics will help clear up a bacterial infection, they will not get to the root cause of why you got sick in the first place. People get sick because their immune system is weak, and there are several different causes of a weak immune system. Vitamin and mineral deficiencies are one reason people can become sick. You need to have ample amounts of vitamins and minerals for your immune system to function properly, especially vitamin C, vitamin D, and zinc. If you find yourself getting a lot of infections, you may want to meet with your doctor to find out if you have any vitamin or mineral deficiencies. Another common cause, and perhaps one of the most common causes, of a weak immune system is too much stress. Stress can greatly weaken your immune system, which is why it is so important to minimize the stress in your life. Meditation and yoga are two great ways to decrease stress and help keep your immune system strong.
Despite the fact that they are commonly prescribed and appear to be safe, antibiotics can cause allergic reactions. You can be allergic to any antibiotic, and allergic reactions can range from severe to mild. In very severe cases, allergic reactions can cause your throat to swell shut. Not only is this type of reaction scary, it is also life threatening. Developing a rash would be a less severe reaction. Because you can have an allergic reaction to a medication, it is very important to read the information handout that you get at the pharmacy so you know what to watch for. If you do have a reaction, be sure to call the doctor, or go to the emergency room if the reaction is severe.
Even though antibiotics can cause problems such as allergic reactions and decreased immunity, it is important to remember that antibiotics can be very beneficial and prevent complications from serious bacterial infections. For example, if strep throat is not treated, it can cause rheumatic fever. Rheumatic fever is a very serious condition that is life threatening and can damage the heart. Fortunately, this is preventable by treating strep throat. Whenever you are sick, go to the doctor if you have a fever or you don’t feel better in a few days. This will ensure that you get the proper treatment for your illness.
Antibiotics can be really helpful if you have a bad bacterial infection. However, they should be taken only when necessary. Next time you get sick, make sure you have a bacterial infection before you take any antibiotics, and let your doctor be the judge of whether or not you need them. What is your opinion about taking antibiotics?
Sources: drlwilson.com, healthychildren.org, nlm.nih.gov
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