What Are Antibiotics?
Antibiotics are powerful medicines that fight infections caused by bacteria. Antibiotics can be used for both treatment and prevention of these infections. Examples include penicillin and ciprofloxacin. They are not used for infections caused by viruses (such as colds, flu or COVID-19), and unnecessary antibiotics can be harmful.
The discovery of antibiotics is considered one of the most significant achievements of the 20th century. In the 1920s, Scottish scientist Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin as a treatment for bacterial infections, however it would take another decade before the first commercially available antibiotic became available. Most antibiotics we use today were discovered between 1940 and the 1960s with very few new antibiotics under development since.
What Are Antibiotics and How Do I Know if I Need Them?
Antibiotics are prescribed by a health-care provider and obtained from a pharmacy. Some common reasons for prescribing antibiotics include strep throat, urinary tract infections, and pneumonia.
Sometimes antibiotics are given to prevent infection but only in special cases such as prior to some surgeries or when a person’s immune system has been altered (for example, if receiving chemotherapy). Many common infections (such as ear infections) could be caused by viruses, or get better on their own without medication. Your health-care provider will decide whether or not antibiotics are required based on your situation. Download the Antibiotic Wise checklist.
What Are Antibiotics and How Do I Take Them Safely?
Antibiotics can be in the form of pills or liquids. They will come with directions for how much to take, at what times of day, along with other directions, such as “take with food” or “keep refrigerated.” Different types of antibiotics work in different ways and following instructions will ensure better treatment outcome and minimize the chance of side effects.