Antibiotics are medications that treat bacterial infections. Some types of antibiotics work by killing bacteria, and others stop bacteria from growing and spreading. Doctors prescribe certain antibiotics for topical use and others for patients to take orally. In cases of serious infection, patients will receive antibiotics intravenously or through an injection. Antibiotics are not effective on viral infections. Thus, they should not be used to treat influenza, the common cold, most types of bronchitis, and similar conditions. Patients must always finish their entire course of antibiotics to avoid resistance.
Many patients want the best over-the-counter antibiotics to treat infections. Antibiotics are common as a treatment for strep throat. They are also used for the treatment of urinary tract infections and some sinus infections. Antibiotic treatment for severe ear infections may be used as well. However, although there are some good over-the-counter antibiotics, specifically topical antibiotic ointments, patients must understand why most antibiotics are prescription-only.
Why Most Antibiotics Are Prescription
In the United States, most antibiotics are only available with a prescription. This is because doctors have the expertise to determine if an antibiotic is necessary for the patient's condition. They know which antibiotics will be effective for particular health concerns. They are also able to take the patient's overall health into account when prescribing the antibiotic. Some antibiotics may not be appropriate for individuals with certain health conditions.
Suppose patients could purchase most antibiotics without a prescription. In that case, they may use them for viral infections and other conditions that do not respond to antibiotics, contributing to antibiotic resistance. Some antibiotics may cause serious side effects. Offering these as prescription-only medicines allows doctors and patients to discuss potential side effects and what to do if they occur. In this way, patients can understand the benefits and risks that antibiotic use may have for their overall health and make a more informed choice.