1. What is an antibiotic?
An antibiotic is a powerful medication designed to kill
bacteria or stop them from growing. They are most commonly
prescribed for illnesses caused by bacteria, like strep throat
and ear infections. They cannot cure illnesses caused by
viruses, such as a cold or the flu. Different antibiotics may
be used for different types of bacterial infections. Only your
health care provider can determine what infection you have and
which antibiotic is appropriate to treat it.
2. What are some common antibiotics?
There are many forms of antibiotics, each designed to work
against a certain type bacteria. Some common antibiotics
include penicillins (such as amoxicillin), fluoroquinolones
(such as Cipro), and macrolides (such as Zithromax).
3. Can antibiotics be harmful?
Unnecessary antibiotics can be harmful. There are two main
types of germs that cause illness, viruses and bacteria.
Antibiotics only fight bacterial infections. Sometimes
antibiotics are given unnecessarily for infections that they
will not help or cure. Antibiotics do nothing to help viral
illnesses like colds or influenza (flu). If you take an
antibiotic when it is not necessary, such as for a cold, you
increase the risk of developing an infection caused by
4. What are resistant bacteria?
Some bacteria are not killed by antibiotics. These bacteria
are considered to be "resistant" to the antibiotic. Resistant
bacteria emerge because of overuse and misuse of antibiotics.
Once bacteria develop resistance to antibiotic treatment, they
can continue to live and/or multiply even after an antibiotic
5. What is an antibiotic-resistant
An antibiotic-resistant infection is an infection that is
difficult or impossible to cure with antibiotics. Ear, sinus,
throat, lungs, and intestines are common sites for
antibiotic-resistant infections. These infections may be hard
to treat, resulting in longer and more severe illnesses. They
may even need to be treated in the hospital.
6. How will the doctor treat my
infections if one antibiotic does not work?
Your doctor may try higher doses of antibiotics, a different
type of antibiotic, or combinations of antibiotics, or may try
to administer the antibiotic in a different way (such as,
through the vein).
7. How do I catch an
There are three ways in which you can get an
1. You can develop
antibiotic-resistant infections when you take an antibiotic.
Bacteria that have been exposed to the antibiotic but have
developed ways to fight them survive. They then can multiply
and begin to cause symptoms. You also can transmit these
resistant bacteria to others and they too may become ill.
2. You can catch antibiotic resistant-infections from people
or objects around you that are infected with resistant
bacteria. Resistant bacteria are frequently found among people
in hospitals, nursing homes, or day care centers. Not properly
washing hands can increase your risk of catching all kinds of
3. You can develop an antibiotic-resistant infection when the
bacteria inside your body exchange, share, or copy genes that
allow them to resist antibiotic treatment.
In addition, antibiotic-resistant bacteria can arise in pigs,
chickens, cattle and other farm animals, which are exposed to
low doses of antibiotics in their daily feed. These resistant
bacteria can then spread to humans, causing
antibiotic-resistant infections. Currently, very few human
infections stem from resistant bacteria in animals, but
inappropriate agricultural use of antibiotics is a large
potential concern for human health.
8. How can I prevent
You can do several things to prevent-antibiotic resistant
infections in yourself and others:
1. Never take an
antibiotic for a viral infection such as cold, cough, or flu.
2. Always wash your hands thoroughly.
3. Always handle food correctly.
4. Take an antibiotic exactly as the doctor prescribes.
5. Take the antibiotic until it is gone, even if you are
feeling better. Never save the medication to treat yourself or
9. If I do not take action to avoid
antibiotic resistance, how am I affecting those around me?
If you do not take action to prevent resistance, you affect
your friends and loved ones. Research has shown that during
and shortly after the time a household member takes an
antibiotic, others in the same household have more resistant
bacteria in their throat or on their skin. Although these
resistant bacteria may never cause symptoms, they could cause
infection or spread to others. Preventing resistance can have
larger effects as well. If everyone takes precautions against
resistance and uses antibiotics correctly, many antibiotics
will continue to be effective for many years.
10. Will antibiotics be completely
It is unlikely that this will occur. However, there are now
strains of some bacteria (i.e., Enterococcus faecalis,
Mycobacterium tuberculosis, and Burkholderia cepacia) which
are not treatable with any of the routinely available
antibiotics. Researchers will continue to make or find
stronger antibiotics, but bacteria will continue to find ways
11. Why would health care providers
give antibiotics if not needed?
Approximately one-third to one-half of all antibiotic
prescriptions are not needed. Many health care providers
report feeling pressured by worried parents or patients to
prescribe antibiotics. Rather than take the time to explain
why an antibiotic isnâ€™t needed, it may be easier to write a
prescription. They also may not be sure whether an infection
is caused by a bacterium or virus. In some cases, laboratory
tests, such as for strep throat, can be helpful, but again
require extra time and sometimes a second visit for the
12. If my doctor wants to give me an
antibiotic, what questions do I need to ask?
1. Why do I (or my
child) need an antibiotic?
2. What is the name of the drug?
3. How and when do I take it and for how long?
4. Are there food, drinks, or activities I should avoid while
taking this medication?
5. Does the medication cause side effects? What are they and
how can I prevent them?
6. Can I take this medication safely while I am also taking
another prescription or non-prescription medicine?
13. Do antibacterial products (such
as antibacterial soaps) fight infections better than ordinary
Except in health care settings, there is no evidence that the
use of antibacterial products prevent infection better than
ordinary soap. Hand washing with ordinary soap and water is
sufficient to reduce the risk of most common infections and
does not add to antibiotic resistance.