Guide To Understanding Antibiotic Side Effects

Antibiotics are a type of medicine that can fight off a bacterial infection. When used correctly, antibiotics are some of the most powerful life-saving tools at an individual's disposal. The medicines work by killing off bacteria or preventing them from reproduction. Once the antibiotics fight the bacteria, the immune system can handle the rest of the infection. Antibiotics aren't effective against viral infections like the flu, colds, viral bronchitis, the majority of coughs, and the majority of sore throats. However, individuals should never use antibiotics when they aren't necessary, as the improper use of antibiotics can cause them to develop antibiotic resistance. If individuals are taking antibiotics for a bacterial infection and experience bad side effects, they should ask their doctor about switching to a new medication. That said, individuals should never stop a course of antibiotics partway through without finishing another.

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Nausea And Vomiting


In addition to killing disease-causing bacteria, antibiotics can wreak havoc on intestinal bacteria, making it difficult to digest food and process liquids, causing side effects like nausea and vomiting. Other gastrointestinal effects are also common. Though all antibiotics have a certain likelihood of causing stomach upset, some are more prone to stomach issues than others, including fluoroquinolones, penicillins, cephalosporins, and macrolide antibiotics. Patients should check with a pharmacist or doctor regarding whether they should take the antibiotic with a meal or not. Eating with or before taking an antibiotic can help for certain medications like doxycycline and amoxicillin. However, eating won't help with every antibiotic, and certain ones, like tetracycline, must be taken without food. Patients should always make sure they know how to take their specific antibiotic, and they can also ask their doctor about other methods of easing stomach discomfort. Taking probiotic supplements can sometimes help replenish the intestinal bacterial the antibiotics kill.

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Indigestion And Bloating


Individuals might feel indigestion and bloating alongside nausea and vomiting, or they might just be mild discomfort without other symptoms of illness. Feelings of indigestion can make an individual's stomach hurt and feel like it's cramping. Patients might feel like there's a lot of gas or water in their stomach that isn't passing through their body properly. Like with nausea and vomiting, individuals may be able to mitigate these effects by taking the medication with food. However, it depends heavily on the exact medication they're taking. If a doctor tells patients the medicine must be taken on an empty stomach, they should listen. Patients should also make sure to ask their doctor before taking any probiotic supplements to make sure they're safe to use alongside the antibiotics. They can also ask their doctor whether there are any over-the-counter medications they can use to help combat the intestinal effects. If bloating and indigestion are too severe for patients to finish the course of antibiotics, they should talk to their doctor about switching to another one.

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Loss Of Appetite


Antibiotics can cause some individuals to experience a loss of appetite. At the same time, the loss of appetite might be influenced or caused by the underlying condition the antibiotics are treating. This is yet another side effect caused by the effects antibiotics have on the gastrointestinal system. When they kill off stomach bacteria, an individual's ability to feel hunger and process food is disrupted. In addition to antibiotics, patients might also experience a reduced appetite as a result of sedatives, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or immunotherapy. Individuals who have undergone major surgery recently might lose their appetite for a brief period as they recover. They're more likely to experience these effects if they are taking a bactericidal antibiotic, which kills bacteria. The other kind of antibiotic, called a bacteriostatic, doesn't kill existing bacteria but does stop them from multiplying. This antibiotic can be good for avoiding side effects, but it will only work on infections the immune system can fight alone. Using it on advanced infections is a bad idea.

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Diarrhea is another effect often linked to antibiotics that occurs due to gastrointestinal issues with stomach bacteria. If the intestines aren't able to fully process and digest food, it can move through the body as loose stool. Individuals might pass undigested fibrous material along with other material and water. Diarrhea can be embarrassing, but it usually isn't severe enough to warrant stopping the medication. Patients can ask their doctor whether it's possible to take an over-the-counter anti-diarrheal medication to help deal with the issue. Once patients finish the course of antibiotics, mild cases of diarrhea should clear up naturally, though there are cases in which some individuals experience more severe diarrhea. If their diarrhea causes cramping, abdominal pain, fever, or nausea, patients should call a doctor. The same is true if individuals find blood or mucus in their stool. When these symptoms occur, it's sometimes because harmful bacteria have become overgrown in the intestines, which can turn into a life-threatening medical emergency. If the bacteria are antibiotic-resistant, they might also be difficult to treat.

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Antibiotic Resistance


Antibiotic resistance is the most serious potential consequence of antibiotics, but it can often be avoided if patients take antibiotics as they are prescribed. Every course of antibiotics lasts a certain amount of time for a reason. If individuals stop halfway through, even if they feel like they're better, the bacteria can immunize themselves against the antibiotic and come back twice as strong. Antibiotic-resistant bacteria can cause untreatable infections. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) considers them a serious threat to public safety because they can cause disability and death. Patients with weakened immune systems are especially vulnerable to antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Strains of these bacteria thrive in hospital settings, and misusing antibiotics just adds to the problem. Even if some patients don't end up hurt by it, someone else can and will be.

Katherine MacAulay