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Using Antibiotics Wisely

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How can I help to make sure that antibiotics are the best treatment for me?

Be smart about using antibiotics. Know that antibiotics can help treat infections caused by bacteria but not by viruses. Here are some things you can do to help make sure antibiotics will work when you need them:

  • Always ask your doctor if antibiotics are the best treatment. Explain that you do not want antibiotics unless you need them.
  • Avoid pressuring your doctor into prescribing antibiotics when they won't help you feel better or cure your illness. Ask your doctor what else you can do to feel better.
  • Do not use antibiotics that were prescribed for a different illness or for someone else. You may delay correct treatment and become sicker.
  • Protect yourself from illnesses. Keep your hands clean by washing them well with soap and clean, running water.
  • Get a flu vaccine and other vaccines when you need them.

Questions you can ask your doctor include:

  • Why do I need antibiotics?
  • What are the side effects of this antibiotic?
  • Can I do anything to prevent the side effects?
  • How do I take the antibiotic? Do I take it at a certain time of day? Do I take it with food?
  • Will the antibiotic interfere with any other medicines?
  • Will anything happen if I take this with other medicines, certain foods, or alcohol?
  • Do I need to refrigerate antibiotics? Are there any special storage instructions?

If you need to take antibiotics, always tell your doctor or pharmacist about other medicines or dietary supplements you are taking. Be sure to talk about any special diet you may be following, any food or drug allergies you may have, and any health problems you have. And make sure your doctor knows if you are pregnant or trying to get pregnant.

How do I take antibiotics?

When your doctor prescribes an antibiotic:

  • Take it exactly as directed. Always take the exact amount that the label says to take. If the label says to take the medicine at a certain time, follow these directions.
  • Take it for as long as prescribed. You might feel better after you take it for a few days. But it is important to keep taking the antibiotic as directed. You need the full prescription to get rid of those bacteria that are a bit stronger and survive the first few days of treatment. Bacteria that an antibiotic cannot kill (antibiotic-resistant bacteria) can develop if you (and many other people) take only part of an antibiotic prescription.
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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: March 10, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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