Several times we encounter such diseases that require antibiotics to cure them. Today there are so many medicines available in the market that it has become almost impossible for us to choose the right drug. Whatever you choose be extremely cautious while using antibiotics. It is very important to develop an understanding of all kinds of medicine that we take, especially antibiotics.
Antibiotics are also called antibacterials, they are special types of medicine that slows down the growth of the bacteria or completely destroys them. The word antibiotic has been derived from two Greek words anti meaning “against” and bios meaning “life” which here particularly stands for bacteria, as it is a living organism. Antibiotics are especially designed to treat infections that are caused due to bacteria e.g. illnesses such as syphilis, salmonella, some forms of meningitis and salmonella. Most of the bacterium are harmful, whereas some are harmless and there are also some that are friendly to the body.
Our bodies are blessed with immune systems that usually destroy the bacteria before it multiplies and causes any harm. The white blood cells act like bacteria killers and attack the harmful bacteria. However, sometimes the situation gets uncontrollable and some external help is required by the body in the form of antibiotics. The term Antibiotic was used for the first time by Selman Waksman in the year 1942 and penicillin was the first of its kind.
Types of Antibiotics
All antibiotics work in two ways so there are two major categories:
- Bacteriostatic: They stop the bacteria to increase in number
- Bactericidal: They kill the bacteria by either interfering with its cell wall formation or cell contents e.g. Penicillin is a kind of bactericidal
Also there are broad-spectrum antibiotic used for treating a wide variety of bacterial infections and narrow-spectrum antibiotics are focused towards curing only a few kinds of bacteria.
What are antibiotics used for?
Antibiotics are known to treat infections caused by microorganisms such as bacteria, parasites and fungi but they are not known to treat viral infections. It is important to determine whether the infection causing factor is a bacteria or a virus before taking antibiotics.
There are also cases where antibiotics are given beforehand especially in case of orthopedic and bowel surgery, in order to prevent the body from catching infections. Such use of antibiotics is termed as, “Prophylactic”.
Side effects of Antibiotics
The most commonly known side effects of antibiotics are fungal infections of the digestive tract, vagina and mouth, diarrhea and tiredness. The rarely reported side effects of antibiotics are stone formation in the kidney, blood disorders, partial deafness, sun sensitivity and blood clotting. Studies revealed that in some cases elderly patients experienced inflammation of bowels as a side effect of antibiotics.
A study conducted by the NY School of Medicine, published in the International Journal of Obesity in August 2012 also revealed that babies who used antibiotics are at a greater risk of turning into obese or overweight children.
Antibiotics and Allergic Reactions
There are cases where patients may face allergic reactions caused by antibiotics, especially in case of penicillin. Sometimes these adverse reactions can prove to be fatal also known as anaphylactic reactions. Some common allergic reactions may take place in the form of a rash, also swelling of the face and tongue may occur and in some cases breathing may be disrupted.
If you have reduced kidney or liver functions, or you are expecting or breastfeeding, in any case consult your doctor before taking antibiotics.
Antibiotics and other medications may clash
It is highly recommended not to use herbal or any other medicine for the treatment of infections for which you are already taking antibiotics. The reason is that the OTC or otherwise known as over the counter (non-prescription) drugs may clash with the antibiotics which could result in adverse reaction to the body.
Also if you are taking oral contraceptives, the antibiotics can reduce its effectiveness.
How antibiotics should be used
Antibiotics can be administered orally as well as in the forms of injections. They can also be applied directly to the affected area. It takes a few hours for the drug to start its work.
An important thing to remember about antibiotics is that under dosage of the drug is useless and it can make infections more persistent. It is highly recommended to complete your antibiotic course even if you feel better after a few doses.
There are some antibiotic medicines that require you to omit the use of alcohol and dairy products, as they affect drug absorption. Also there are such antibiotics that need to be taken empty stomach.
In any case it is highly recommended to consult your doctor before making use of any kind of antibiotics especially keeping the above mentioned points in mind.
Today the overuse of antibiotics is a major concern worldwide. The overuse of antibiotic drugs results in persistent bacterial growth and incurable infections. On 19th November 2012, a statement issued by ECDC( European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control) revealed that each year 25,000 people die from antibiotic resistant bacterial infections in European Union.