You may have heard or read about antibiotics before, but aren’t sure what they are, or how they work.
What are antibiotics?
When do you need it?
Let’s take a look at this important substance and what it can do for your health.
Antibiotics and You
An antibiotic is a medicine that kills bacteria or stops their growth and reproduction.
These substances are a kind of anti-microbial agent that specifically target bacterial infections within our bodies.
The word antibiotic itself means “anti-life”.
Any drug that fights off germs can be called an antibiotic, but when doctors refer to antibiotics they usually mean the medicine that’s used to kill bacteria.
Before antibiotics were discovered in 1920, minor bacterial infections such as strep throat were fatal.
When antibiotics became widespread in the 40s, surgeries became safer, life expectancy rose and people mostly survived infections.
Most of the antibiotics created today are grown in labs and based on compounds that can be found within nature.
For example, a few microbes create substances that are made to kill bacteria in order to get a share of limited resources such as water, food, etc.
Others only produce antibiotic substances in a laboratory.
How Do Antibiotics Work?
Antibiotics are often used to treat patients who have bacterial infections.
Antibiotics come in many different types, and it’s usually up to the attending physician to determine which antibiotic to use in certain scenarios.
Some substances are wide spectrum, which means they can be used to treat a wide variety of bacteria, including the helpful ones.
Others are highly specialized, which means they are used to treat patients who are infected with a certain bacteria.
Antibiotics can either kill the bacteria residing in the body or prevent its mechanism of action, effectively stopping the infection from spreading further.
Some types of infections that can be treated using antibiotics are as follows:
- Strep throat
- Bacterial pneumonia
- Kidney and bladder infection
- Meningitis, or swelling of the spinal column and the brain
- Skin infection
- Dental infection
- Sinus and ear infection
Conditions that are caused by viruses, such as the common cold, sore throat, stomach flu and bronchitis infection cannot be treated with antibiotic since they are viral in nature.
In these cases, your physician will recommend rest and waiting for the virus to run its course or prescribe anti-viral medicine to shorten its lifespan.
To determine which treatment is the most effective, patients are sometimes given tests.
After the results of the tests are read, then your doctor will prescribe the right drug for you to get better.
The Importance of Antibiotics
Antibiotics single-handedly changed the way we dealt with infectious diseases.
After antibiotics were discovered, life expectancy increased by 8 years.
Today, these medicines are commonly used each and every day, making complex surgeries possible.
The absence of antibiotics can set human civilization back a few decades.
Surgical operations like appendectomies can be fatal, as they were before the spread of antibiotic treatment.
These drugs help prevent infections from entering any part of an open cut or wound.
Without antibiotics, instances of blood poisoning become higher, which could potentially hinder the possibility and success rates of most complex surgeries.
Are There Any Side Effects To Taking Antibiotics?
One way antibiotics can change how your body works is through the gut.
Our gut is a haven for both good and bad bacteria, and taking antibiotics usually affects our digestive system.
A change in the digestive system’s flora and fauna can produce the following side effects:
- Loss of appetite
- Abdominal pain
- Indigestion or bloating
Uncommon symptoms include difficulty breathing, wheezing, coughing or the development of hives.
These could mean that you may be allergic to the prescribed drug.
If these signs occur, it will be best to consult with your physician right away.
Antibiotics are powerful tools for fighting germs when they are used carefully.
Overusage of this drug has led to higher bacterial resistance.
Over time, bacteria tend to evolve and adapt, becoming “superbugs”, which make them stronger against conventional antibiotics.
This means that most antibiotics won’t be effective in treating them.
Without a proper cure, it will be very difficult to contain these superbugs and keep them from wreaking havoc in the general population.
To prevent these superbugs from forming, patients shouldn’t skip doses and take the antibiotics on their prescribed days.
Don’t take any other antibiotic and follow your doctor’s instructions to the letter.