Antibiotic therapy sounds like a long-term method for treating illnesses, but it doesn’t have to be. If your doctor decides to prescribe antibiotics for strep throat or an ear infection, you are undergoing antibiotic therapy. Essentially, the term refers to use of antibiotics to treat, prevent or improve illness. The most common antibiotics include penicillin, cephalosporin, tetracycline and amoxicillin.
There is certainly much more consideration that goes into effectively choosing the right antibiotic to fit the bacteria it is supposed to kill and determining how long that antibiotic should be administered. There’s been much recent study on whether doctors need to prescribe 10-12 days worth of antibiotics for common illnesses like ear infections and strep throat, and some evidence suggests that shorter usage of antibiotics for minor bacterial infections may be just as effective. One concern with overuse of antibiotics is that it can cause certain bacteria to become resistant to antibiotic strains, and physicians are encouraged to only prescribe antibiotics when they are certain that infection is present.
Antibiotics do not fight infections caused by viruses, such as:
- Most coughs and bronchitis
- Sore throats, unless caused by strep
If a virus is making you sick, taking antibiotics may do more harm than good. Each time you take antibiotics, you increase the chances that bacteria in your body will be able to resist them. Later, you could get or spread an infection that those antibiotics cannot cure.There are many different ways that antibiotic therapy can be administered and the time therapy takes from start to finish. With relatively minor infections, you may take a medication orally for several days to several weeks. Infection could be so severe that you need intravenous antibiotics, usually administered in a hospital setting, or injections of antibiotics. Sometimes therapy means several months of treatment with an antibiotic, either in oral or intravenous form. There are also single-dose treatments, called antibiotic prophylaxis, which might be given prior to a surgery, or for people who have heart disease or have had heart surgery, prior to dental visits.
If you are prescribed oral antibiotics, there are some important things that need to be remembered. You should finish all of your medication, unless directed otherwise by a doctor. Failing to fully complete antibiotic therapy may result in return of an infection that is harder to kill. Moreover, you should not use antibiotics that are left over to treat a new infection. Since bacteria come in many forms, this may be inappropriate. Anyone who is ill should seek a doctor’s advice before self-prescribing antibiotics.