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When properly used, antibiotics are wonderful, live-saving medicines that fight infections caused by bacteria. When antibiotics are needed and used properly, the benefits usually outweigh the risks of side effects. But, antibiotics aren’t always the answer for an illness.

Often, too many antibiotics are prescribed unnecessarily, which threaten its usefulness. Taking antibiotics when not needed won’t help, and instead, will expose you to harmful side effects. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) highly recommends against treating non-bacterial infections with antibiotics. Plus, overuse can lead to antibiotic resistance. That means the next time you really do need an antibiotic, it will not work.

smart facts about antibiotics

When to use antibiotics

Antibiotics work for conditions such as:

  • Strep throat
  • Urinary tract infections (UTIs)
  • Whooping cough
  • Sepsis

However, they are NOT NEEDED to treat some common bacterial infections like many sinus and some ear infections (That’s because these illnesses tend to get better on their own).

When NOT to use antibiotics

Antibiotics DO NOT work on viral infections. These include:

  • Most sore throats (except strep)
  • Common colds
  • Runny noses
  • Thick colored mucus
  • Chest colds such as bronchitis
  • Flu

The downside — side effects

Common side effects range from minor to very severe health problems and can include:

  • Rash
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Yeast infections

More serious side effects can include:

  • C. diff infection, which causes diarrhea that can lead to severe colon damage and death
  • Severe and life-threatening allergic reactions
  • Antibiotic-resistant infections

The bottom line of antibiotic use

It’s important to use antibiotics only when they are needed. Know the facts: protect yourself from harm caused by unnecessary antibiotic use.


Learn more at the CDC.

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