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What are Antibiotics? Are they Safe?

  By posted Jul 31st 2014


What are Antibiotics? Are They safe?

You hear about them every time you visit a doctor, but do you really know what they mean and how they function? Antibiotics basically tackle infections caused by various bacteria and parasites, excluding flu and viral fevers. Doctors always emphasize on completing the entire course of antibiotics to avoid resistance caused by the bacteria.


Now each antibiotic works against a specific bacteria type. The types of antibiotics primarily include:

  • Penicillins - for example, penicillin V, flucloxacillin, and amoxicillin.
  • Cephalosporins - for example, cefaclor, cefadroxil, cefalexin.
  • Tetracyclines - for example, tetracycline, doxycycline, and minocycline.
  • Aminoglycosides - for example, gentamicin, amikacin, and tobramycin.
  • Macrolides - for example, erythromycin, azithromycin, and clarithromycin.
  • Clindamycin.
  • Sulfonamides and trimethoprim - for example, co-trimoxazole.
  • Metronidazole and tinidazole.
  • Quinolones - for example, ciprofloxacin, levofloxacin, and norfloxacin.


The main function of antibiotics is to destroy the bacteria or parasite by prying into the cell walls and also limiting the reproduction of bacteria in the body.


When you take an antibiotic, there is a fight between the effect of the drug and your immune system. Therefore, the longer the bacteria survives, the likelier it is that it will become resistant to the drugs.


In a bid to kill the infection, one has to make sure all the bacteria causing the infection is killed. If you do not take the prescribed medication doze, then the bacteria might show in someplace else, which can be deadly.


Side effects of antibiotics
The most common side effects of antibiotics are nausea, vomiting, upset stomach or loose motions. On rare occasions, one may have allergic reactions to certain antibiotics. Furthermore, persistent usage of antibiotics can lead to the destruction of good bacteria in the bowel, which in turn will result in the growth of bad bacteria.
Here are a few side effects of antibiotics, which may require medical attention:

  • Clostridium difficile infection - Watery loose motions and cramps in the stomach
  • Allergic reaction - Rashes on the skin, swelling of the lips, swelling of the face or tongue, nausea, breathlessness.
  • Vaginal itching or discharge
  • Severe vomiting
  • White patches on the tongue

Antibiotics when combined with other medication, can hamper the effectiveness of other treatments. So, it is best to inform your doctor about all the medicines that you are taking before starting an antibiotic course.



*Image courtesy: Thinkstock photos/ Getty Images


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