Living Well

The ABC’s of Antibiotics

The ABC’s of Antibiotics

Author: Jennifer Lambert, PharmD, MPA, UMCNO Clinical Pharmacist

What are Antibiotics?

Antibiotics are types of medicine that help stop infections caused by bacteria. How they do this is by (1) killing the bacteria or (2) keeping the bacteria from reproducing.

The word antibiotic, itself, means “against life.”

Woman taking pill

Did You Know?

An estimated 2 million illnesses and 23,000 deaths occur each year in the US due to antibiotic resistant infections.1 Antibiotics are drugs used to treat bacterial infections, not viral infections. Using antibiotics the wrong way can lead to antibiotic-resistant infections that cause illness or death. This is why healthcare providers are being more careful when prescribing antibiotics.

  • When not used correctly, antibiotics can be harmful to your health.
  • Antibiotics can cure most bacterial infections. Antibiotics cannot cure viral illnesses.
  • Antibiotics cause one out of five Emergency Department visits for drug-related side effects.
  • It is estimated that more than half of antibiotics are unnecessarily prescribed.1
  • Antibiotics can lead to severe forms of diarrhea that can be life- threatening, especially in elderly patients.
  • When you are sick, antibiotics are not always the answer

Antibiotics: The Alphabet Letter by Letter

HEALTH spelled out with pills

A (Ask)

  • “Are these antibiotics necessary?” and “What can I do to feel better?”

B (Bacteria)

  • Antibiotics do not kill viruses. They only kill bacteria.

C (Complete the Course)

  • Take all of your antibiotics exactly as prescribed (even if you are feeling better).

female pharmacist explaining prescription to female patient

How Can You Help Prevent Antibiotic Resistance?

  • Take antibiotics exactly as your healthcare provider instructs.
  • Only take antibiotics prescribed for you.
  • Do not save antibiotics for the next illness or share them with others.
  • Do not pressure your healthcare provider for antibiotics.

pharmacists writing prescription

Do You Need an Antibiotic?

IllnessVirusBacteria
ColdsNO
FluNO
Whooping coughYES
Strep throatYES
Most ear achesNO
BronchitisNO
PneumoniaYES

What Can You Do to Help Yourself Feel Better if You Have a Viral Illness?

Pain relievers, fever reducers, decongestants, saline nasal spray or drops, warm compresses, liquids, and rest may be the best things to help you feel better. Ask your healthcare provider or pharmacist what symptom relief is best for you.

pharmacist explaining to patient and daughter

Prescriptions for antibiotics can be filled and picked up at the Walgreens Pharmacy at University Medical Center.

If you are in need of a healthcare provider, click here.

Citations:

1 CDC. Antibiotic Resistance Threats in the United States, 2013. 16 September 2013. 32.