Antibiotics: Is Less More?


So you feel like crap right now, huh? You’ve spent the last 30 minutes Googling your symptoms (uh, bad idea—stop) and reading every article and random forum in the vain hope of figuring out what medications to take for that infection. Because everyone is proffering different solutions, you’re now wondering whether to just go for antibiotics. After all, you’ve used them for years, right?

Of course, antibiotics are strong medicines capable of killing bacteria or keeping them from reproducing themselves. In fact, whooping cough, bacterial pneumonia, kidney infections, bladder infections, meningitis, some ear infections, and skin infections are some of the infections that can be treated with antibiotics.

However, most people have been using antibiotics for so long. As a result, these bacteria now resist antibiotics–leading to infections that are harder and expensive to treat. For instance, skin infections from MRSA are spreading fast, but unfortunately, they are antibiotic-resistant.


What to know about resistance to antibiotics

Here’s what you need to know to help prevent resistance:

  • Prolonged use of antibiotics can lead to a resistant infection in the future

There are infections that you may need to prevent or treat with antibiotics. But if only you knew that some of these antibiotics prescriptions are not even necessary.

The truth is, it is normal to have bacteria in your gut, body and on your skin. Many of these bacteria can keep you healthy and are harmless. So, when you take an antibiotic, it kills most bacteria, including the good ones. What then happens is, a few bacteria survive, adapt, multiply and become super bacteria. At this point, antibiotics no longer work on them.


  • Antibiotics-resistant infections are expensive to treat

Antibiotics-resistant infections usually need more expensive medications and hospital visits. For example, it costs so much to treat an antibiotics-resistant infection in the bloodstream.

The best way to avoid these super bacteria is by trusting your doctors if he/she says you don’t need antibiotics the first time.


  • Antibiotics do have side effects

Every year, thousands of Americans lose their lives due to severe diarrhea caused by antibiotics. Other side effects of antibiotics include bloating, nausea, loss of appetite, vomiting and vaginal infections.

Serious allergic reactions include itchy skin rashes, puffy face, cough, wheezing and respiratory issues. There are also antibiotics that can result in permanent nerve damage.




Do you really need antibiotics?

Let’s take a look at some of the many common conditions for which people take antibiotics.

  • Urinary Tract Infections

Urinary tract infections are always unwelcome, and they are just one of the many conditions that disproportionately affect women. For women, bacteria are easily transferred from the rectum and vagina to the bladder. Now, because doctors often find bacteria in routine urine tests, they prescribe antibiotics to people with no symptoms of a urinary tract infection (UTI). For these people, antibiotics are not helpful and can prove harmful.

People without UTI symptoms should be tested and treated for bacteria in their urine before antibiotics are prescribed.


  • Respiratory infections such as cold, cough, catarrh and sore throat

You may have been figuring out whether what you woke up with are allergies, or, more terrifyingly, a cold. And so, because you don’t want to be confined to your bed for seven days, you then decide to pop some antibiotics. The problem with this decision, however, is that most respiratory infections are caused by a virus. And antibiotics don’t kill viruses.

Only consider an antibiotic if a respiratory infection lasts more than 2 weeks. In any case, a doctor is in the best position to diagnose a bacterial illness.




  • Ear infections (especially in children)

There isn’t a universal “miracle” cure for ear infections–most ear infections improve on their own in two or three days, especially in children age two or older. Simply give your child over-the-counter pain relievers for a few days, and avoid antibiotics.

If symptoms aren’t better in two to three days or they get worse at any time, take your child to see a doctor.


  • Skin infections like eczema

You suffer from eczema?  You are not alone. And while it is some relief to know others are not immune to it as well, that doesn’t really help calm our dry, red, irritated, itchy skin. Doctors may prescribe antibiotics. But antibiotics may not do much to stop the itching, redness, or pain. To treat eczema, medicated creams or ointment can prove more effective.

Only opt for antibiotics if there are signs of bacterial infections like sores, bumps, warm skin, pus, and fever.




  • Eye infections

Eye infections are usually caused by a virus or allergy, so antibiotics wouldn’t be necessary. For instance, bacterial pinkeye usually improves within 10 days on its own.

Consider antibiotics for eye infections if your immunity is compromised, but note that antibiotics don’t lower the risk, and they can irritate the eye. If you suffer a bacterial eye infection with signs like redness, swelling, tearing, pus, and vision that is getting worse, see a doctor.


  • Surgical wounds

Did you know that surgical wounds usually have a very low risk of infection?    And so, antibiotics don’t necessarily lower the risk. With petroleum jelly, most wounds heal just as well.

The only time you should consider antibiotics is if the wound is in a high risk area like the genitals or show signs of infection such as pain, inflammation, redness, pus or fever.




Bottom line

So you read all of this and still don’t feel like you should toss your antibiotics, and that sucks! Hey, we get it—being sick is awful. The only thing that can really fix you is to visit a qualified healthcare provider to figure out whether an antibiotic is right for you.