Taking antibiotics when you don't need them puts you and your family at risk.
Antibiotics aren't always the answer as they don't work for viruses which your body can usually fight off on its own. Always take your doctor's advice on antibiotics.
Antibiotics are used to treat or prevent some types of bacterial infection. They work by killing bacteria or preventing them from spreading. But they do not work for everything.
Many mild bacterial infections get better on their own without using antibiotics.
Antibiotics do not work for viral infections such as colds and flu, and most coughs and sore throats.
Antibiotics are no longer routinely used to treat:
ear infections in children
When it comes to antibiotics, take your doctor's advice on whether you need them or not. Antibiotic resistance is a big problem – taking antibiotics when you do not need them can mean they will not work for you in the future.
When antibiotics are needed
Antibiotics may be used to treat bacterial infections that:
- are unlikely to clear up without antibiotics
- could infect others
- could take too long to clear without treatment
- carry a risk of more serious complications
People at a high risk of infection may also be given antibiotics as a precaution, known as antibiotic prophylaxis.
How to take antibiotics?
Take antibiotics as directed on the packet or the patient information leaflet that comes with the medicine, or as instructed by your GP or pharmacist.
Antibiotics can come as:
- tablets, capsules or a liquid that you drink – these can be used to treat most types of mild to moderate infections in the body
- creams, lotions, sprays and drops – these are often used to treat skin infections and eye or ear infections
- injections – these can be given as an injection or through a drip directly into the blood or muscle, and are used for more serious infections
Missing a dose of antibiotics
If you forget to take a dose of your antibiotics, take that dose as soon as you remember and then continue to take your course of antibiotics as normal.
But if it's almost time for the next dose, skip the missed dose and continue your regular dosing schedule. Do not take a double dose to make up for a missed one.
side effects of antibiotics
As with any medicine, antibiotics can cause side effects. Most antibiotics do not cause problems if they're used properly and serious side effects are rare.
The common side effects include:
- being sick
- feeling sick
- bloating and indigestion
Read more about the side effects of antibiotics.