Which Antibiotics Treat Tooth Infections?
Antibiotic resistance is one of the major health issues facing mankind today. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that there are currently over 700 different types of drugs available for treating various diseases. Most of these drugs have been around since the 1940’s or even earlier! While some drugs may still be effective against certain infections, others are no longer effective at all due to drug resistant strains being developed.
The use of antibiotics has greatly increased during the past few decades. However, this increase in usage has come with a price: many bacteria have become resistant to commonly used antibiotics. These new strains of bacteria are becoming increasingly difficult to treat and sometimes even fatal.
The WHO reports that between 2000 and 2010, more than 2300 people died from drug-resistant bacterial infections worldwide.
What Are Antibiotics Used For?
Antibiotics are often prescribed when other treatments fail to cure a disease. They are used in medicine to fight off harmful organisms that cause illness or death. Some common uses include:
Curing minor illnesses such as colds and flu, ear infections, skin conditions and diarrhea.
Fighting off life threatening diseases like tuberculosis, malaria and HIV/AIDS.
Treating serious infections caused by bacteria, such as urinary tract infections, bladder infections, prostate infections and pneumonia.
Cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy often take antibiotics to prevent infection.
Antibiotics are also used in the livestock industry to increase the rate of growth in farm animals. This is a cause for concern because resistant strains of bacteria may develop which can be passed on to humans.
How Do They Work?
Antibiotics consist of a variety of chemical compounds that can kill or stop the growth of bacteria. Each type of antibiotic works in a slightly different way. Some antibiotics interfere with the production of proteins that are essential for bacteria to grow and multiply. Other antibiotics act as a poison that kills the bacteria whenever they feed on them.
The basic process involves targeting the infectious bacteria while the rest of the body’s healthy, normal cells are left untouched by the medication. That’s the reason why many antibiotics can cause nausea, diarrhea and yeast infections. These symptoms occur when the medication starts killing off the excess of bacteria in the body.
Are They Effective?
Antibiotics are effective in treating bacterial infections but do not work on viral infections such as the common cold. Antibiotics only work on bacteria and not viruses. Viruses, like the one that causes the common cold, are smaller than bacteria and only contain genetic material. Antibiotics can’t kill viruses because they don’t contain any genetic material and must invade living cells in order to multiply.
The most effective antibiotics are the ones that target specific types of bacteria. For example, there are different types of antibiotics for treating strep throat and other types for treating skin infections. Some of the more common bacteria that are affected by antibiotics include:
Staphylococcus aureus – causes infected wounds, skin infections, pneumonia and sinusitis.
Streptococcus pyogenes – causes strep throat, skin infections and Scarlet fever.
Escherichia coli – E. coli is a common type of bacteria that normally lives in the intestines and sometimes causes urinary tract infections.
Pseudomonas aeruginosa – is a type of bacteria that causes different types of infections, including skin wounds and ear infections.
How Long Do Antibiotics Take to Work?
Antibiotics can take anywhere from half an hour to 12 hours to start working. This all depends on the type of infection being treated. In most cases, you will feel the beneficial effects of the antibiotics within two hours. For the first few days after taking the medication, it is important that you complete the full course of antibiotics as this is when they are most effective against fighting off the bacteria causing your condition.
Antibiotics do not always produce instant results, so don’t stop taking them prematurely as this can lead to the bacteria becoming resistant to the medication. If you stop taking the medication too soon, the bacteria may begin growing resistant to the effects of the antibiotics and you’ll have to try a different type of antibiotic. You should always finish the course of antibiotics that your doctor has prescribed.
What Happens if They Don’t Work?
Sometimes, antibiotics don’t produce any beneficial effects on your condition and the symptoms continue to worsen. This can lead to other complications, such as a secondary infection. As with the common cold, the best way to prevent secondary infections is by taking plenty of rest and wearing loose clothing while the immune system fights off the bacteria. If the condition worsens, it is important to seek immediate medical attention.
What If I’ve Taken Antibiotics in the Past and Now My Condition Has Worsened?
In some cases, you may develop a secondary infection that requires stronger antibiotics than the ones you’ve taken in the past. For instance, if you’ve had a urinary tract infection and you’ve already taken an antibiotic to treat it, you may need to take another one if your symptoms worsen.
If you’ve previously taken an antibiotic to treat a condition, there is still a chance that you’ll suffer from a secondary infection or condition at some point in the future. This is because some bacteria become resistant to certain types of antibiotics over time. In this case, your doctor may prescribe a stronger antibiotic to treat your condition.
Are There Any Antibiotics That I Should Not Take?
You should take the advice of your doctor when it comes to antibiotics. In some cases, you may be allergic to certain types of antibiotics and your physician will prescribe a different type of medication to treat your condition. In other cases, you may suffer from an adverse reaction to an antibiotic that will require you to seek immediate medical attention.
Antibiotics can also interact with other types of medication that you’re taking. For instance, some antibiotics can cause the effectiveness of birth control pills to decline. If you’re planning on taking antibiotics, it’s best to consult your doctor and let them know about any and all medications that you’re taking on a regular basis.
This is especially important if you’re pregnant, trying to become pregnant or are breastfeeding. Some antibiotics can be passed through the mother’s milk and cause harm to a child. Your physician will be able to let you know which antibiotics are safe for you to take while you’re pregnant or breastfeeding.
What If I Don’t Need Antibiotics?
If you’ve been taking antibiotics to treat a condition and your symptoms have improved, it is best to complete the full course of medication. This is because many conditions (such as the common cold) get better on their own and finishing the course of antibiotics can cause more harm than good. If you do stop taking the medication early, your symptoms may worsen and you may need to see your doctor for further treatment.
When you’ve completed the course of antibiotics, it’s important that you do not start taking them again unless your physician specifically tells you to do so. Continuing to take antibiotics when they’re not necessary can contribute to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which is a growing public health concern.
In some cases, a mild yeast infection may respond to over-the-counter medications. If this is the case, you should use these medications instead of taking antibiotics.
What If I Have a Problem Taking Antibiotics?
It is best to consult with your physician before taking any medication and let them know about any conditions that you have or if you’re taking any other medications on a regular basis. This will ensure that the antibiotics are safe for you to take and will also prevent any potential interactions with other drugs that you may be taking.
If you do experience an allergic reaction to an antibiotic, seek immediate medical attention. Common signs of an allergic reaction include difficulty breathing, hives, swelling and dizziness. In the case of a severe allergic reaction, you may require an injection of epinephrine.
If you have certain pre-existing health conditions (such as kidney disease or liver disease) you may be at higher risk of experiencing side effects from antibiotics. You should tell your physician if you have any of these conditions.
If you’re diabetic and take insulin or other medications that affect blood sugar levels, you may find that antibiotics affect your blood sugar levels. It’s always a good idea to check your blood sugar levels regularly and keep extra supplies of these medications on hand in case your blood sugar levels drop too low.
If you experience diarrhea while taking antibiotics, you should drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration. If the diarrhea is excessively watery or persists for more than a day or two, you should contact your physician since this may be a sign of a more serious illness that needs to be treated by a doctor.
Can I Still Take Antibiotics If I’m Taking Other Medicines?
Your physician will be able to tell you whether you can take all of the medications that you need, so it’s important to tell them about everything that you’re taking (including over-the-counter medications such as aspirin). While most antibiotics don’t interact with other drugs, there are some instances where an interaction can occur.
Before taking any antibiotics your physician may carry out tests to make sure that it’s safe for you to take them. These will include things like taking a blood test, checking your blood pressure and possibly carrying out an ECG. Since these tests aren’t automatically carried out for everyone who takes antibiotics, it’s important to tell your doctor if you’re planning on taking them in the near future.
If you take insulin or other diabetes medications, it’s important to let the medical professionals know that you’re taking these just in case your blood sugar levels become unresponsive to the medication. You may also be checked for dehydration while taking some antibiotics. Some antibiotics can cause diarrhea or vomiting which can lead to dehydration.
What Are the Risks of Taking Antibiotics?
Taking antibiotics is convenient, but it does come with some risks. While the following side effects are generally rare, you may experience some of them:
Gut issues: Antibiotics can sometimes affect your gut and cause diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, pain, gas and bloating. These side effects generally subside once you stop taking the medication, although in some cases you may experience them for a few days after your course of antibiotics has ended. In more serious cases, these symptoms may persist for a long time or become chronic.
Allergic reactions: Some people develop an allergic reaction to antibiotics. These allergic reactions may include skin rashes, hives, swelling and difficulty breathing. Seek immediate medical attention if you experience any allergic reaction while taking antibiotics.
Drug interactions: Certain antibiotics interact with other medications, over-the-counter drugs and certain foods. It’s important to tell your physician about all medications (including herbal medicines) before you begin your course of antibiotics.
Possible infertility: There is some evidence that long-term use of antibiotics may lower your fertility. The decline in fertility appears to be reversible once you stop taking the antibiotics.
What Are Antibiotic Resistance and Superbugs?
Antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria change after being exposed to antibiotics. These changes allow the bacteria to survive even when the antibiotics are used at full strength. If this happens, the antibiotic becomes ineffective at killing the bacteria and a person’s infection remains even after taking the medication.
Superbugs are strains of bacteria that have overcome antibiotic resistance and are no longer affected by standard antibiotics. They can cause infections that are difficult to treat and in some cases may be impossible to treat. It is important to only take antibiotics when prescribed, finish the course and not give the left-over antibiotics to another person.
Preventing the spread of superbugs is one of the most important ways of keeping them under control.
Who Needs to Take Antibiotics?
Antibiotics are only needed when the benefits of taking them outweigh the risks. Certain groups of people are more likely to benefit from taking antibiotics than others. These groups include:
People with certain pre-existing medical conditions (e.g. diabetes, cancer, HIV/AIDS)
People with weak immune systems (e.g. people with cancer or HIV/AIDS, people who are undergoing chemotherapy, people with organ transplants)
Infants and young children (due to their under-developed immune systems)
Pregnant women (due to the risk of harming the fetus)
Those with severe symptoms that are likely due to a bacterial infection
People who are otherwise healthy may be able to take the risk of not taking antibiotics and their course of treatment will depend on the severity of their symptoms.
If you are not sure if you should take antibiotics, discuss this with your physician or pharmacist who can help assess your situation and give you a risk assessment of whether it is safer to take antibiotics or not.
How Can I Minimize the Side-effects of Antibiotics?
Although rare, some people may experience side-effects from taking antibiotics. The most common side-effects include:
Rash or itchiness
Swelling of the face, mouth or tongue which can cause difficulty breathing
Anxiety or hallucinations
If you are experiencing any unusual effects while taking antibiotics, contact your physician immediately. In some cases, the side-effects may be reduced or eliminated by taking the antibiotics with food.
Antibiotics and Pregnancy
Due to the risk of harming the fetus, most antibiotics are not prescribed to pregnant women unless the benefits clearly outweigh the risks. Always disclose if there is any possibility that you could be pregnant before starting a course of antibiotics.
Antibiotics and Alcohol
Alcohol and antibiotics do not mix. If you require antibiotics, you are advised to avoid alcohol and any other drugs (including over-the-counter medications) unless they have been approved by your physician. This is because all of these substances increase the risk of side-effects and can potentially cause fatal reactions.
How Can I Minimize the Risk of Antibiotic Resistance?
Antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest threats to modern medicine and public health. Inappropriate prescribing, overuse and the failure to complete a course of treatment as instructed all contribute to the problem.
If you feel you do not need to complete your course of antibiotics (e.g. your symptoms have cleared up), you can request to stop taking them.
However, your physician will be able to give you a risk assessment and let you know if it is safe to do so. Stopping your antibiotics course early is never recommended and only done in exceptional circumstances.
If you have an immediate allergic reaction to an antibiotic, you should still seek medical attention immediately even if you have taken the medication for only a short period of time.
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