Antibiotics are drugs used to fight many infections caused by bacteria. Some antibiotics are effective against only certain types of bacteria; others can effectively fight a wide range of bacteria. Antibiotics do not work against viral infections.

When used correctly, antibiotics are extremely useful and important medicines. They fight certain infections and diseases caused by bacteria. Well-known antibiotics are penicillin, tetracycline, streptomycin, chloramphenicol, and sulfa drugs, or sulfonamides.

The different antibiotics work in different ways against specific infections. All antibiotics have dangers in their use, but some are far more dangerous than others. Take great care in choosing and using antibiotics.

The use of all medicines should be limited. But this is especially true of antibiotics, for the following reasons:

1. Poisoning and reactions. Antibiotics not only kill bacteria, but they can also harm the body, either by poisoning it or by causing allergic reactions. Many people die each year because they take antibiotics they do not need.

2. Upsetting the natural balance. Not all bacteria in the body are harmful. Some are necessary for the body to function normally. Antibiotics often kill good bacteria along with the harmful ones. Babies who are given antibiotics sometimes develop fungus or yeast infections of the mouth or skin. This is because the antibiotics kill the bacteria that help keep fungus under control. For similar reasons, persons who take ampicillin and other broad-spectrum antibiotics for several days may develop diarrhea. Antibiotics may kill some kinds of bacteria necessary for digestion, upsetting the natural balance of bacteria in the gut.

3. Resistance to treatment. In the long run, the most important reason the use of antibiotics should be limited is that WHEN ANTIBIOTICS ARE USED TOO MUCH, THEY BECOME LESS EFFECTIVE.

When attacked many times by the same antibiotic, bacteria become stronger and are no longer killed by it. They become resistant to the antibiotic. For this reason, certain dangerous diseases like typhoid are becoming more difficult to treat than they were a few years ago.

In some places, typhoid has become resistant to chloramphenicol, normally the best medicine for treating it. Chloramphenicol has been used far too much for minor infections, infections for which other antibiotics would be safer and work as well, or for which no antibiotic at all is needed.

Throughout the world, important diseases are becoming resistant to antibiotics— largely because antibiotics are used too much for minor infections. If antibiotics are to continue to save lives, their use must be much more limited than it is at present. This will depend on their wise use by doctors, health workers, and the people themselves.

For most minor infections antibiotics are not needed and should not be used. Minor skin infections can usually be successfully treated with mild soap and water, or hot soaks, and perhaps painting them with gentian violet. Minor respiratory infections are best treated by drinking lots of liquids, eating good food, and getting plenty of rest.


For most common infections antibiotics begin to bring improvement in a day or two? If the antibiotic you are using does not seem to help, it is possible that:

1. The illness is not what you think. You may be using the wrong medicine. Try to find out more exactly what the illness is—and use the right medicine.

2. The dose of the antibiotic is not correct. Check it.

3. The bacteria have become resistant to this antibiotic (they no longer are harmed by it). Try another one of the antibiotics recommended for that illness.

4. You may not know enough to cure the illness. Get medical help, especially if the condition is serious or getting worse.


1. If you do not know exactly how to use the antibiotic and what infections it can be used for, do not use it.

2. Use only an antibiotic that is recommended for the infection you wish to treat.

3. Know the risks of using the antibiotic and take all the recommended precautions.

4. Use the antibiotic only in the recommended does—no more, no less. The dose depends on the illness and the age or weight of the sick person.

5. Never use injections of antibiotics if taking them by mouth is likely to work as well. Inject only when absolutely necessary.

6. Keep using the antibiotics until the illness is completely cured, or for at least 2 days after the fever and other signs of infection have gone. (Some illnesses, like tuberculosis and leprosy, need to be treated for many months or years after the person feels better. Follow the instructions for each illness.)

7. If the antibiotic causes a skin rash, itching, difficulty in breathing, or any serious reactions, the person must stop using it and never use it again.

8. Only use antibiotics when the need is great. When antibiotics are used too much they begin not to work as well.


1. Before you inject penicillin or ampicillin, always have ready ampules of Adrenalin (epinephrine) to control an allergic reaction if one occurs.

2. For persons who are allergic to penicillin, use another antibiotic such as erythromycin or a sulfa.

3. Do not use tetracycline, ampicillin, or another broad-spectrum antibiotic for an illness that can probably be controlled with penicillin or another narrow-spectrum antibiotic. Broad-spectrum antibiotics attack much more kinds of bacteria than narrow-spectrum antibiotics.

4. As a rule, use chloramphenicol only for certain severe or life-threatening illnesses like typhoid. It is a dangerous drug. Never use it for mild illness. And never give it to newborn children (except perhaps for a whooping cough).

5. Never inject tetracycline or chloramphenicol. They are safer, less painful, and do as much or better when taken by mouth.6. Do not give tetracycline to pregnant women or to children under 8 years old. It can damage new teeth and bones.

7. As a general rule, use streptomycin, and products that contain it, only for tuberculosis—and always together with other anti–tuberculosis medicines. Streptomycin in combination with penicillin can be used for deep wounds to the gut, appendicitis, and other specific infections when ampicillin is not available (or is too costly). but should never be used for colds, flu, and common respiratory infections.

8. All medicines in the streptomycin group (including kanamycin and gentamicin) are quite toxic (poisonous). Too often they are prescribed for mild infections where they may do more harm than good. Use only for certain very serious infections for which these medicines are recommended.

9. Eating yogurt or curdled milk helps to replace necessary bacteria killed by antibiotics like ampicillin and to return the body’s natural balance to normal.


- While on antibiotics avoid spicy food & alcohol. Include probiotics like curd in your meals to boost the gut flora & counter attack the harmful effects of the medicine.

- Keep your body well hydrated as it helps to flush out the toxic chemicals from the body.

- Eat easy-to-digest & non-salty food as your digestion will be slightly affected.

- Stay away from oily food.

- Take small frequent meals.

- Practice portion control.

- You can take antacids & vitamin supplements when on antibiotics.

- Do light exercises or yoga to boost metabolism, to make you feel active.


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