When used properly, antibiotics can treat infection and save lives. These medications halt or inhibit the growth of bacteria, and can be extremely powerful in addressing certain illnesses and infections.

However, antibiotics aren’t always safe. In fact, these medications are associated with a number of complications, some of which are severe in nature.

Keep reading to learn more about the dangers of antibiotics, and what you can do to reduce the risks associated with these types of drugs.

antibiotics

When Are Antibiotics Safe?

Antibiotics are only safe in the treatment of bacterial infections. In these cases, antibiotics target harmful bacteria, and either destroy it or stop it from multiplying. However, when infection is the result of a virus, antibiotics are ineffective and can have a negative impact on health and immunity. Unfortunately, since bacterial infections and viruses often produce similar symptoms,  antibiotics are often prescribed in the treatment of viral infections, and complications can occur.

Side Effects of Antibiotics

Even when used properly, antibiotics can cause a variety of side effects, ranging from common and mild to rare and severe. Common side effects include the following:

  • Allergic reaction.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Rash.
  • Abdominal pain.
  • Nausea or vomiting.
  • Yeast infection.

Rarer, more serious side effects of antibiotic therapy can include the formation of kidney stones, abnormal clotting and other blood disorders, damage to the internal organs and more. For example, the antibiotic Levaquin has recently been associated with the development of peripheral nerve damage and other serious effects. Some of the available information on Levaquin suggest that while it can be effective in the treatment of meningitis and other bacterial infections, patients who have been prescribed this drug are at a significantly increased risk of developing peripheral neuropathy.

The Dangers of Misusing Antibiotics

When antibiotics are misused, a number of complications can occur. For example, when used too often, antibiotic therapy can destroy healthy bacteria, also known as gut flora, in the intestines. As a result, digestive health and immunity become compromised, which increases the body’s vulnerability to other, more serious infections. In children, the destruction of healthy intestinal bacteria is especially harmful. In fact, due to the misuse of antibiotics among children with respiratory or gastrointestinal infections, the CDC has reported an increase in cases of antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria, some of which can be fatal.

What You Can Do

Thankfully, there are ways you can protect yourself and your family from the dangers of antibiotics. Tips like the following can help prevent misuse and reduce the risks associated with these medications:

  • Ask questions. If your doctor prescribes an antibiotic, feel free to voice your concerns. Ask as many questions as necessary until you feel comfortable taking the prescribed medication.
  • Read the fine print. If you are prescribed an antibiotic, be sure to read all the information you receive at the pharmacy. By reading about potential side effects and risks, you’ll be better-equipped at handling complications if/when they arise.
  • Don’t assume antibiotics are necessary. If your doctor doesn’t prescribe an antibiotic, ask about other ways in which you can address symptoms. For example, ask about OTC or herbal remedies you can use to reduce fever, suppress cough, etc. While bacterial infections have to run their course, you can address uncomfortable symptoms through non-prescription methods.
  • Take medications as prescribed. If antibiotics are necessary, be sure to take your medications exactly as prescribed. This means finishing your prescription, even when you’re on the mend.

Antibiotics are powerful tools in the treatment of certain illnesses. However, the misuse of these medications can result in serious effects and complications, some of which can be life-threatening. Thankfully, the tips provided here can help you protect yourself from the risks associated with antibiotic drugs.