Like driving on a multilane highway, using antibiotics appropriately can be complex. But like driving, it’s made easier by following some basic evidence based rules, while unexpected events may intervene to change the route.
this post updated October 28, 2022
As many as 50% of the antibiotics prescribed in the United States may be unnecessary or inappropriate. This contributes to
- antibiotic resistance ,
- avoidable side effects of the drugs, and
- increased medical cost without benefit.
The best source of medical advice for you personally is your own doctor, or one who talks to and examines you.
Exceptions to rules exist, every medical situation is unique. So although these recommendations are firm, they are not absolute. This is just a partial list which includes most but not all common infections.
STOP- don’t treat these with antibiotics
Most upper respiratory infections including
- infectious mononucleosis, aka “mono”
- RSV-respiratory syncytial virus
Acute viral gastroenteritis, aka stomach flu, with nausea, vomiting, and/or diarrhea
Some of these may be treated with anti- VIRAL medication, not antibiotics.
SLOW DOWN- these may not need an antibiotic, at least not immediately
Ear infections -otitis media
Sinusitis– sinus infections
spider or tick bites– many of these are not bites at all, but are other skin diseases, including bacterial infections (see below)
sore throats– pharyngitis or tonsillitis
GO- these infections usually need antibiotics to resolve successfully
Urinary tract infections- this includes the kidney, bladder, prostate
Skin infections including animal and human bites
Pneumonia (although can can be due to viruses, especially in children)
Whooping cough –pertussis
Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever- these are both transmitted by tick bites; but not all tick bites result in infection
Sexually transmitted diseases caused by bacteria – gonorrhea, chlamydia, syphilis
Any infection severe enough to require admission to a hospital- including infections of any internal organ, bones, joints, brain; included here are infections which develop during a hospital stay
Check out the links for more info.
(By the way, I hope you enjoyed the photos. I took them at a Veterans Day parade.)
exploring the HEART of responsible antibotic use
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25 thoughts on “How to navigate the antibiotic highway”
Very informative. Thanks! When my doc prescribed antibiotic for viral fever, I asked him why as it won’t have any effect on the virus. His reply was that he anticipates a bacterial infection and the antibiotic is to prevent that.
Thanks for the feedback. Prescribing antibiotics for prevention is appropriate in some situations, although less than we used to believe. Prescribing always involves some degree of clinical judgment, so as long as a physician has a reasonable rational, I wouldn’t argue the point. As the patient, it’s always your choice to comply or not. It pays to be well informed.
Thankfully I haven’t needed to travel that highway for quite some time. As a (now retired) nurse in adult stem cell transplantation, I saw more antibiotics – and more antibiotic-resistent organisms – than I ever care to see again in my life!
Thanks for sharing at https://image-in-ing.blogspot.com/2019/12/coffee-shop-humor.html
I agree; I rarely take antibiotics myself, as I am blessed with great health. I’m sure you had a fascinating career; stem cell transplants were barely in use when I did my medical training, now seem so common.
Most informative! Thank you!
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Thanks for this post. We’ve been trying to avoid antibiotics if we can.
Thanks for visiting; I’m glad you are cautious. May you continue in wellness
This is interesting info! I always worry about medicine but, ultimately, know it’s important to trust my doctor!
The doctor- patient relationship must be built on trust; thanks for mentioning it.
It is so very important to have a good physician that knows you and you can trust. I agree there are too many antibiotics being prescribed, but there are also just as many people who avoid the doctor for so long they end up in the ER with a horrible illness that could have been prevented. I just try to stay informed and involved and really find doctors that are good. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!
We physicians appreciate patients who are informed and involved; it helps us do our job better. Thanks for responding.
We don’t use antibiotics very often at all…we tend to use more natural products like essential oils and herbs first.”:)
Thanks for joining the discussion. I think many people don’t understand the appropriate use of antibiotics but once they do they are glad to avoid them when possible. I’m glad you have found something that works for you. Stay well
Very good post. I agree that doctors tend to overprescribe, both antibiotics and meds in general. We started using essential oils a couple years ago and have been able to reduce our usage of meds significantly because of overall better health. Of course, docs and meds do have a place and are a blessing when necessary. Great post!
Thank you. And doctors appreciate patients who don’t insist on drugs they don’t need. Keep up your healthy habits.
Thank you for sharing that list! Good to know!
Thanks for visiting Lisa
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I’m so conscious of every medication that goes into my kids, but I need to become even more so. We had our daughter on an antibiotic (not the usual go-to one for first infections), and it turned out she was allergic to it, which made her symptoms so much worse! I think it was a case of the ER doctor not fully checking her history – my husband, her father, is allergic too. I’ll be much more careful with when and what we give our kids in terms of antibiotics in the future!
Thanks for sharing your example although I’m sorry that your daughter had a bad reaction, I hope it was easily resolved. It’s just as important to know which antibiotic to use , not just when. Sometimes reactions can be unpredictable; you can react to something you’ve tolerated in the past. So yes, make sure you understand the benefits and risks of all medications your family receives.
Thanks for your insights Jennifer and Caroline. I think one of the most interesting questions in healthcare is why some people seem to come down with everything and others never get sick, no matter what they do or don’t do. I believe the answer lies in that we are all unique and there are still many things about our bodies we do not understand. So much to learn it never gets boring. Sharing information is valuable and helpful.
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All too often, we want instant cure and get upset when we don’t have it. Antibiotics are only miracles if we don’t overuse them. I tend to use a lot of zinc and herbal supplements to boost my immune system and thieves oil to head off illness.
Interesting! I haven’t taken medicine in years!!!
That will change when your family adds littles! They bring home all the fun stuff!