Antibiotics have become a part and parcel of daily life. We all use them to make a full recovery from several kinds of bacterial infections, and to prevent others in the household getting sick (prophylaxis).

However, the use of antibiotics isn't as straightforward as we have come to believe. Not only do they treat/prevent infections caused by bacteria, but they can also lead to side effects such as diarrhoea, bloating and other reactions in the body.

Antibiotics are used to treat different kinds of bacterial infections as they kill off the infection-causing bacteria, or stop them from worsening the symptoms affecting your health. However, antibiotics do not work in all kinds of conditions. Antibiotics are available in the form of tablets, capsules, syrups, ointments or creams.

Some bacterial infections can get better on their own, thus not requiring the use of antibiotics at all. Besides, it is equally important to get antibiotics only on the advice of a doctor, as their use has significantly changed over the years.

Antibiotics are usually not prescribed to be used in the case of chest infections, ear infections (especially in children) and/or sore throats any more. Thus it is important to take them only when the situation demands it. Here are a few things one should keep in mind while taking antibiotics.

  1. Antibiotics with vitamins
  2. Antibiotics only for bacterial infections
  3. Antibiotic resistance
  4. Side effects of antibiotics
  5. Do not self medicate with antibiotics
  6. Avoid alcohol and spicy food when on antibiotics
  7. Recovering without the use of antibiotics

Some antibiotics do not mix well with vitamins and minerals (like zinc), which means you may have to stop taking your daily supplements, or alter the time of taking them. Some antibiotics can also reduce the effect of the nutrients you get from your multivitamin tablets as well, hence it is beneficial to check with your doctor before taking them.

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Antibiotics are only used to treat bacterial infections, some of which include:

Antibiotics are not effective against viruses, thus they have no effect against infections such as the common cold, flu, viral fever or bronchitis. Bacterial infections in the sinuses (sinusitis) and in the ears are not treated with antibiotics any more, as most such infections tend to get better on their own. Often, dentists do not recommend antibiotics for tooth infections because there are better and more targetted therapies like root canal to deal with these.

The overuse of antibiotics in the past few years has also meant they have become less effective in fighting off infections in the body. This is because the bacteria causing the infection in the body becomes immune or resistant to the antibiotics being ingested.

In fact, the emergence of "superbugs", or strains of bacteria that have developed resistance, has rendered many antibiotics useless in some cases. In such instances, treating the infection becomes even more difficult—leading to disabilities and deaths around the world. Thus, it is important to only use antibiotics when absolutely necessary.

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There are several side effects of antibiotics, which can range from mild to severe. These include problems such as rashes, nausea, diarrhoea and yeast infections. Some antibiotics are also contraindicated for pregnant and lactating women (they should not take them) or people with certain medical conditions.

In some cases, even life-threatening conditions can develop with the use of antibiotics such as colon damage, harmful allergic reactions or infections that are resistant to antibiotics. These medications should always be prescribed after thoroughly knowing about the medical history of the patient and the risk of side effects should be known to the patient taking them.

You may have had the same infection before, but that doesn’t mean you take the same medication that the doctor prescribed before. You may need a different medicine, dosage or combination of medicines this time. If this is a relapse of the same condition, the doctor may want you to get additional tests like a culture test to see which medicines work on your body and which don't.

Don't try to diagnose yourself the next time you get the same symptoms—symptoms for different conditions can overlap and a doctor is particularly trained to use many diagnostic methods to arrive at a proper answer.

As mentioned earlier, bacteria can become resistant to antibiotics, hence it is important to not keep consuming the same medication over and over.

Also, it is important to follow the dosage as prescribed by the doctor and not stop if you start feeling better earlier. Side effects of antibiotics also need to be kept in mind before taking them, thus self-diagnosing is never a good idea.

Antibiotics are usually consumed after meals, but doctors may prescribe them to be had before or during meals as well. This also means one should avoid eating food that is spicy or mixing it with alcohol. Eating foods that are light and easy to digest makes it easier for your digestive system to handle both the food as well as the medications. Food with excess salt or oil should also be avoided during this period.

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Antibiotics aren't always needed to feel better or recover from an illness. Some over-the-counter medications can work wonders in the case of certain infections as well. You can also ask your doctor about ways you can improve your health without the need of taking antibiotics, and ways you can build your immunity to ward off future infections.

You may also be interested in Immunity boosting foods

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