All You Need To Know About Antibiotics
The etymology of the word antibiotic refers to the Greek anti-that means ‘against’ and bios that mean ‘life’. So, a bacterium is a form of life. Medical professionals also call antibiotics antibacterials. These medications are indicated for treating various infections provoked by bacteria.
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Certain types of bacteria are not harmful and even good for us, while the others can harm, inducing such conditions as tuberculosis, syphilis, salmonella, meningitis, and many others.
Our body has a mechanism that protects us from the bacteria’s unwanted actions. Bacteria can multiply and cause various unfavorable symptoms, but our immune system protects us and destroys them with white blood cells that work by attacking harmful bacteria.
Even if certain unfavorable symptoms occur, the immune system generally copes and fights the infection. But our immune system may need some extra help as it can’t fight bacteria on its own. In this situation, antibiotics can help to deal with the bacteria.
Penicillin is the first antibiotic created. There exist several penicillin-related antibiotics widely used these days. Among them are the following: ampicillin, amoxicillin, and benzylpenicillin.
Nowadays, there are a number of other types of modern antibiotic medications.
Types Of Antibiotics
Although there are various types of antibiotic drugs, they all have one of two actions: bactericidal or bacteriostatic.
Bactericidal antibiotics such as Penicillin kill the bacteria by interfering with the cell wall formation of the bacteria. Penicillins, cephalosporins, fluoroquinolones, carbapenems, monobactams, glycopeptides, and phosphomycin also have this property.
The bacteriostatic effect of antibiotic drugs involves preventing bacteria from multiplying. This action is characteristic of tetracyclines, macrolides, aminoglycosides, lincosamides, and aminoglycosides.
Their action also distinguishes two groups of antibiotics:
- broad-spectrum – used to treat diseases caused by a large number of microorganisms;
- narrow-spectrum – affects individual strains and types of bacteria.
There is also a classification of antibacterial drugs according to their origin:
- natural – derived from living organisms;
- semi-synthetic antibiotics are modified molecules of natural analogs;
- synthetic – they are produced entirely artificially in specialized laboratories.
Aminoglycosides are broad-spectrum antibiotics active against most gram-negative aerobic bacteria. They are ineffective against anaerobes and most gram-positive bacteria.
Doctors use these antibiotics to treat:
- Gastrointestinal disorders;
- Nosocomial infections;
- Purulent infections in any organ;
Aminoglycoside antibiotics include:
Aminoglycosides are administered intravenously because they are not absorbed from tablets. Neomycin is often prescribed as vaginal suppositories and tobramycin as eye drops.
They are usually used in combination with other antibiotics to treat endocarditis, tuberculosis, sepsis, respiratory and urinary tract infections.
Avoid using aminoglycosides too often or in excessively high doses. These drugs can be toxic to the kidneys and can impair hearing.
Pregnant women should not use this type of antibiotics because it can harm the fetus. However, breastfeeding women can use these antibiotics because they penetrate the breast milk but are not absorbed.
You need to have a prescription to buy antibiotics from this group. Warn your doctor about any medications you are taking because aminoglycosides can prolong neuromuscular blockers’ effects.
Tetracyclines are broad-spectrum antibiotics. They are used to treat infections associated with aerobic gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria. At the same time, they are effective against many atypical pathogenic bacteria.
Tetracyclines are used to treat:
- Inflammations of lungs, bronchi, pleura;
- Inflammations of the middle ear, sinuses;
- Pancreas infections;
- Kidney disorders;
- Urinary tract infections;
- Venereal diseases;
- Brucellosis, dysentery;
- Skin infections;
- Digestive system infections;
- Relapsing typhus.
Tetracycline antibiotics include:
Tetracyclines sometimes cause allergies.
Children under the age of eight can use these antibiotics only in severe infections like anthrax. At this age, tetracyclines can impair bone formation if taken for more than three consecutive weeks.
Side effects may include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, candidiasis, photosensitivity, dizziness.
You can buy antibiotics from this group in the form of tablets, injections, and ointments. They are not available over the counter.
Warn your physician if you have kidney problems. Some patients with pyelonephritis have to replace tetracyclines with other less dangerous antibiotics for the kidneys.
Lincosamide antibiotics kill gram-positive anaerobic bacteria and some parasites, such as malaria’s causative agent. However, this type of antibiotic has zero effect on gram-negative bacteria.
These antibiotics are mainly used as substitute antibiotics for people allergic to Penicillin.
Lincosamides are used to treat:
- Dental infections;
- Abdominal infections;
- Pelvic inflammations;
Lincomycin and Clindamycin are considered relatively non-toxic antibiotics. Nevertheless, high doses may cause nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and diarrhea.
The use of lincosamides in pregnant and breastfeeding women is recommended only if the benefit exceeds the harm. For example, they can be used in situations where penicillins, cephalosporins, and macrolides have failed to destroy the infection.
You can buy antibiotics in the form of tablets, injections, ointments, and vaginal suppositories. These medications are not available over the counter.
Macrolides are used against aerobic and anaerobic gram-positive bacteria(enterococci, staphylococci, and pneumococci).
These drugs are used to treat:
- Urinary tract infections (UTI);
Macrolide antibiotics include:
- Azithromycin (Zithromax);
Macrolides may cause allergic reactions. Most common side effects include nausea, diarrhea, liver and heart disorders.
It makes sense to take these antibiotics only in exceptional cases if the benefits outweigh the harm.
Breastfeeding women can only use Erythromycin from this drug group. The safety of other macrolides is unknown. That is why doctors prescribe them only if there are no other alternatives.
Take the drug according to your prescription. Warn your doctor about all the medications you are taking because macrolides interact with many medications, making their effects unpredictable.
These are bactericidal beta-lactam antibiotics with a broad spectrum of action, used as injections.
Physicians prescribe Carbapenems to treat:
- Internal organ infections;
- Urinary tract infections;
- Abdominal infections.
This group of medications includes:
Carbapenem antibiotics often remain the last hope for patients whom other types of antibiotics did not help.
Natural and synthetic penicillins are effective against different bacteria. Natural penicillins work against most gram-positive bacteria and only several gram-negative bacteria. At the same time, semi-synthetic penicillins work against both gram-positive and many gram-negative bacteria.
This group includes the following antibiotics:
Both natural and synthetic penicillins are prescribed to treat:
- E. coli infections
- Urinary tract infections
- Typhoid fever.
You can buy both tablets and injections if you have a medical prescription.
First-generation cephalosporins are effective against most gram-positive bacteria. Further generations are also effective against some aerobic gram-negative bacteria.
The list of antibiotics from this group includes:
- Cefazolin (Ancef)
- Cefaclor (Ceclor)
- Cefuroxime (Ceftin and Zinacef)
- Cefadroxil (Duricef)
- Cephalexin (Keflex)
- Ceftriaxone (Rocephin)
- Cefixime (Suprax)
Cephalosporin antibiotics are used to treat:
- Skin and soft tissue infections;
- Infections associated with Escherichia coli and Streptococcus;
- Penicillin-resistant streptococci and enterococci infections;
- Sexually transmitted infections such as gonorrhea;
- Bone infections;
- Kidney infections.
These drugs are not available over the counter. You can buy antibiotics like Keflex or Duricef only if you have a medical prescription.
All modern fluoroquinolones act on both anaerobic, gram-positive, and gram-negative bacteria.
This group includes the following antibiotics:
Doctors prescribe fluoroquinolones:
- Otitis media;
- Chronic bronchitis;
- Community-acquired pneumonia;
- Cystitis, pyelonephritis;
- Other infections.
Fluoroquinolones are contraindicated in people who have previously been allergic to antibiotics from this group and in patients prone to arrhythmias.
If you suffer from renal insufficiency, your doctor will prescribe you lower antibiotics dosages.
Side effects are rare. The most common adverse reactions include nausea, mild stomach pain and diarrhea, mild headache, dizziness, and insomnia.
Pregnant women should use fluoroquinolones only if the benefits outweigh the risks and a safer alternative is not available. These drugs can penetrate breast milk, making them not recommended for breastfeeding women.
Fluoroquinolones are prescription drugs available as pills, injections, and eye drops. It is essential to take them strictly as recommended by your doctor.
Can You Buy Antibiotics Over The Counter?
In most cases, you cannot buy antibiotics over the counter in the US, Canada, and Europe.
There several antibiotics available OTC as ointments:
- Neosporin Plus.
These over-the-counter antibiotic ointments include bacitracin, neomycin, and polymyxin in various combinations.
If you suffer from severe acne, you can buy benzoyl peroxide, which is available OTC.
As you can see, only some topical antibiotics are available over the counter. Because the misuse of oral or intravenous antibiotics can cause tolerance to harmful bacteria. Thus, most antibiotics will be useless for treating severe infectious diseases.
Can You Buy Antibiotics Online?
You cannot get a prescription for any oral antibiotic without an appointment with your physician. You need to have a person-to-person consultation either in a physical clinic or using telemedicine services.
In any case, if your doctor issued you a prescription, then you can buy antibiotics online or in any physical pharmacy. As said above, oral antibiotics are not available over the counter.
More About Antibiotics
Side Effects Of Antibiotics
Among the common adverse effects of antibiotic medications are diarrhea, fungal infections of the mouth, digestive tract, and vagina, and some others.
Among rare adverse effects of antibiotic medications are the formation of kidney stones, blood clotting problems, blood disorders, sun sensitivity, deafness, and some others.
Allergic Reactions To Antibiotics
A number of people develop allergic reactions to antibiotic medications. Most often, allergic reactions occur to penicillins. Among allergic reactions are rash, swelling of the face, and breathing problems.
Before starting the treatment with any antibiotic drug, let your medical provider know if any allergic reactions to antibiotic drugs have ever occurred to you. Note that allergic reactions to antibiotic medicines can be severe and even fatal.
People with the following conditions should use antibiotics with caution: liver or kidney impairments, pregnancy, and breastfeeding.
Antibiotic drugs can interact with other medicines. That is why tell your doctor about all medications and herbal supplements you are using. Over-the-counter medications might also interact with antibiotic drugs.
Penicillins, cephalosporins, and some other types of antibiotics might decrease oral contraceptives’ performance. Take care of additional contraceptive precautions if you use any of these antibiotics.
Administration of Antibiotics
Generally, antibiotic medications are administered by mouth, but some antibiotics are injected or used directly to the affected area.
As a rule, most antibiotic medications start their effect on an infection within several hours. It is vital to complete the entire course of the medication treatment to cure the disease completely and prevent it from coming back.
There is a high risk that the bacteria become resistant to future treatments with this antibiotic if the course of treatment is not completed. Even if you feel a significant improvement in your condition, you still need to complete the treatment.
You should use certain types of antibiotics with food to prevent stomach upset. Typically, avoid drinking alcohol during the treatment with antibiotics.