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    Antibiotics fight bacterial germs!

    When bacteria make us sick, we sometimes need antibiotics to help us get better.

    What are bacteria?

    Bacteria are tiny organisms not visible to the human eye. Billions of bacteria live in and on people, animals and plants at all times. Most bacteria are helpful to us; some are harmful and cause infections.

    What are antibiotics?
    Antibiotics are prescription drugs that attack bacterial germs. They are powerful substances which can kill or disable disease causing bacteria.

    When do I take antibiotics?
    Your doctor gives you a prescription for antibiotics when your illness is caused by bacteria, not by viruses.

    Are antibiotics safe to take?
    Antibiotics are generally safe and should always be taken as prescribed. As with any medication, antibiotics may have side effects. Be sure to ask your doctor about potential side effects and how to manage them.

    Can I save the antibiotic for the next time I am sick?
    No. Leftover antibiotics are not a complete dose. Always talk to your doctor because your symptoms may not be caused by bacteria. If you do have another bacterial infection, a complete dose of antibiotic is needed to kill all the harmful bacteria.

    Why should I be concerned about resistant bacteria?
    If your prescription does not work against a bacterial germ, your illness lasts longer, and you may have to make return office and pharmacy visits to find the right drug to kill the germ. For more serious infections, it is possible that you would need to be hospitalized or could even die if the infection could not be stopped. Also, while the resistant bacteria are still alive, you act as a carrier of these germs, and you could pass them to friends or family members.

    Does that mean I should take antibiotics for the flu or common cold?
    No. Colds and flus are caused by viruses, not by bacteria. Antibiotics don't work against viruses.

    When I start feeling better can I stop taking the antibiotic?
    No. Your prescription is written to cover the time needed to help your body fight all the harmful bacteria. If you stop your antibiotic early, the bacteria that have not yet been killed can restart an infection.

    What is antibiotic resistance?
    Sometimes bacteria find a way to fight the antibiotic you are taking and your infection won't go away. Doctors call this antibiotic resistance. When resistance develops your doctor will need to prescribe a different antibiotic to fight your infection.

    What can I do about antibiotic resistance?
    A new class of antibiotic drugs is not expected to appear until the year 2000. If bacteria become resistant to all our current antibiotics, we won't have any other alternatives. Using antibiotics wisely will help preserve their effectiveness in the years ahead.

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