Published on June 29, 2018

Proper Use of Antibiotics

Antibiotic resistance is one of the most urgent threats to the public’s health.  Every time a person takes antibiotics, sensitive bacteria are killed, but resistant ones may be left to grow and multiply. Overuse of antibiotics is a major cause of increases in drug-resistant bacteria. When you use antibiotics correctly, you do the best for your health, your family’s health, and the health of those around you. Here are tips for using antibiotics correctly.

Ask if an Antibiotic is Necessary 

Say YES to antibiotics when needed for certain infections caused by bacteria.

Say NO to antibiotics for viruses, such as colds and flu, or runny noses, even if the mucus is thick, yellow or green.

Antibiotics also won’t help for some common bacterial infections including:

  • most cases of bronchitis
  • many sinus infections 
  • some ear infections

When they’re not needed, antibiotics won’t help you, and the side effects could still hurt you.

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

  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Yeast infections

More serious side effects can include:

  • Clostridium difficile infection (also called C. difficile or C. diff), which causes diarrhea that can lead to severe colon damage and death. 

Never pressure your healthcare professional to prescribe an antibiotic.

Know What’s Got You Sick

Antibiotics cure bacterial infections, but not viral infections such as:

  • Colds or flu
  • Most coughs and bronchitis
  • Most sore throats
  • Runny noses, even if the mucus is thick, yellow or green

Taking antibiotics for viral infections:

  • Will not cure the infection
  • Will not keep other people from getting sick
  • Will not make you feel better

If you need antibiotics, take them exactly as prescribed. Talk with your doctor if you have any questions about your antibiotics, or if you develop any side effects.

Some Facts Related to Antibiotics

  • 30% of antibiotics prescribed in doctors’ offices and emergency departments are unnecessary.
  • Each year in the United States, at least 2 million people get infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria. At least 23,000 people die as a result.
  • 1 out of 5 medication-related visits to the ED are from reactions to antibiotics.


Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2018

Submitted by: Johnsie Hubble, RN, MPH, CIC, Chatham Hospital's Infection Control/Employee Health Director

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