Antibiotics can help you feel better after some common illnesses by fighting the bacteria that cause these infections. In addition to taking the prescribed dose, there are some other, lesser-known things that can help you recover as quickly as possible.
Infectious disease researcher Ghinva Dumiati, MD, and emergency medicine physician Bohdan Klimochko, DO, offer advice for the next time your doctor prescribes it.
How do antibiotics work?
Antibiotics are drugs that interfere with the normal function of bacteria in certain infections, such as strep throat, bacterial pneumonia, and urinary tract infections. Antibiotics can be found in tablets, liquids, ointments, creams, or injections.
Antibiotics do not work against viral infections. Using antibiotics to treat viruses, such as the common cold or flu, can cause harm. Doctors are particularly concerned that the overuse of antibiotics could lead to the development of new strains of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. It is important to always consult a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.
What should I do when I start taking a new antibiotic?
- Follow the prescription exactly, including taking with or without food. Some foods can affect the absorption of certain antibiotics in the body, reducing their effectiveness.
- You may start to feel better shortly after the first few doses, but be sure to complete the full course as prescribed. If you don’t, the bacteria may not be completely eliminated from your system.
- Take it every day at the same time to maintain a constant level in the body.
- Watch for side effects, allergic reactions and signs of yeast infection. Contact your doctor if you experience any of these.
- Tell your doctor about any medications, supplements, or herbal remedies you are taking. Some interactions with antibiotics can cause negative side effects or change their effectiveness. For example, some birth control pills may be less effective when taken with certain antibiotics.
- Avoid alcohol, as it can negatively affect some antibiotics.
- Do not store or share antibiotic doses.
How soon will I start feeling better?
It varies, but symptoms may improve within 48 to 72 hours of starting antibiotics. The body continues to respond and recover after the course of antibiotics is over. You may be back to normal soon after you stop taking the medicine, but it may take a little longer.
Should I change my toothbrush after starting antibiotics?
While some providers suggest getting a new toothbrush two or three days after starting antibiotics for strep throat, expert opinions are mixed. More studies on this topic are needed to prove whether this is necessary.
How do antibiotics affect gut health?
Antibiotics can cause digestive problems because they can disrupt the balance of good bacteria in the gut. This is another reason to take antibiotics only when prescribed by your doctor. A healthy diet, including foods containing probiotics, can help restore good bacteria in the gut.
It’s normal to experience a mild upset stomach while taking antibiotics, but if you experience persistent symptoms of diarrhea, abdominal pain, nausea, or fever, it’s important to contact your doctor. Some people may experience a colon infection called C. difficilewhich can be serious.
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