When should (and shouldn’t) you take an antibiotic?

Antibiotics were discovered accidentally in 1928 when a researcher noticed that a mold had killed his petri dishes of Staphylococcus bacteria. Since that time, emergency care doctors have relied on antibiotics to save countless lives, but they can’t combat every infection. If you visit the Emergency Room at MountainView Hospital with an infection, the healthcare providers will ensure your treatment is designed to meet your unique needs.

Understanding antibiotics
The three primary categories of germs that can make you sick are: Bacteria, viruses and fungi. Antibiotics only work against bacterial infections, just like antivirals are only used for viral infections and antifungal drugs only work on fungal infections.

Before prescribing an antibiotic, the emergency care doctor needs to make sure you have a bacterial infection instead of another illness. The use of antibiotics in the absence of a bacterial infection will do far more harm than good.

Taking antibiotics as prescribed
If you’re prescribed an antibiotic, pay close attention to the dosage instructions. Don’t hesitate to ask questions if anything is unclear. For instance, you might ask whether taking a pill every six hours means you should take it three times per day.

One of the most important things to remember about antibiotics is that you must finish the entire course of medicine you’ve been prescribed, unless a doctor instructs you otherwise. Some people stop taking antibiotics once they start to feel well again. Unfortunately, an improvement in symptoms doesn’t necessarily mean the infection is cleared up.

Preventing drug-resistant bacteria
When patients don’t finish all of their prescribed antibiotics, they give bacteria the opportunity to evolve and become resistant to those drugs. The patient can spread these drug-resistant bacteria to others.

The patient can also become sick again. He or she may need to be hospitalized to receive intravenous medications if the infection doesn’t respond well to oral antibiotics. You can hear more about drug-resistant bacteria when you watch the featured video.

Drug-resistant bacteria are a serious public health problem. You can do your part to prevent bacteria from getting stronger by following your doctor’s instructions carefully. Remember to never share your medications with anyone else.

At MountainView Hospital, the health and safety of our patients in Las Vegas are our highest priorities. Our emergency care providers will ensure that you fully understand your diagnosis, medication dosage instructions and follow-up recommendations before you leave our hospital. If you have general healthcare questions, a registered nurse is available to help at (702) 962-5021.

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