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Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Rules for Using Antibiotics

When it comes to treating bacterial infections, antibiotics are THE main form of treatment. Most patients have heard the word "anti-biotic" but do not clearly know what they are and how they work.
To make a long story short, antibiotics are made from bacteria themselves; they are special agents that prevent the multiplication of, or actually stop the growth of other bacteria, or even kill them. As you know, anti- means against, and bio- means related to life; hence, antibiotics are "against life".
Some examples of antibiotics which are frequently used by Paediatricians for sick children are the penicillins, drugs like erythromycin, drugs like the tetracyclines, and so on. To this list must be added some synthetically derived chemcals that also perform as well as the antibiotics - they too can either stop the growth of, or actually kill, disease causing germs (bacteria). As the term implies, antibiotics do work to stop bacteria, but they do not act of other forms of microbes like viruses, fungi, etc. For these other types of disease-causing life-forms, we have anti-viral drugs, anti-fungal drugs, and so on. These medicines are not our focus, so I will, simply, move on.
Patients and their care-givers are never too happy to receive antibiotics, since these are often bitter, induce side-effects like nausea, vomiting, loose bowels, etc. in addition to rarer but more troublesome side-effects like falling hair, blisters in the mouth, rashes on the skin, and so on. Also, antibiotics must, once begun, be continued for the entire prescribed duration. This increases the risk of side-effects even more.
It is therefore imperative to know what rules and principles govern the use of antibiotics. Here is a basic list. I hope readers go through this basic list and then seek more information should they desire it through a comprehensive source such as an internet search or access to a text-book of pharmacology.
1. Use an antibiotic only after consulting a physician.
2. Never use an antibiotic for a period longer than that told to you by the physician. A shorter period than that advised will probably not hurt the child, but it, still, is not the correct thing to do. Most common illnesses need use of an antibiotic for about 5-7 days, though the period can vary from just one day to as many as 42 days, or even longer, depending upon the characteristics of thei llness as well as the drug being used.
3. Store an opened bottle of antibiotic inside the refrigerator, or, if that is not available in your home, in a dark and cool area of the house, such as in the bathroom wall cabinet, or a special drug cabinet, or whatever. Exposure to heat can cause denaturation of the active medicine inside the bottle, so that, at the very least, it may change colour, or at the very worst, it can cease to be effective.
4. Do not repeat an old prescription thinking that :what worked for the patient the last time will also work this time. This almost always never happens, as illnesses that look alike in appearance and manifestation may actually be two different illnesses, needing different medicines.
5. Even worse, do not use antibiotics used by other friends or neighbours; for the same reason, of course, but also because as they may not be related to the patient genetically, the same medicine may not just not work; it may even prove to be harmful to you or your child.
6. Antibiotics should not be used for viral illnesses, fungal infections and so on, as, clearly, they won't work in such illnesses.
7. Dosing and frequency of use should be strictly adhered to, as germs and antibiotics complement each other: for example, if the recommended dose is 5 ml twice a day, do not arbitrarily change it to, say, 3 times a day. This can prove to be disastrous to the child.
These are the basic rules. There are many others, such as whether to have them before a meal or after, which other medicines to avoid taking WITH it, and so on. Do ask the treating physician about the relevant questions and be guided by the light of knowledge.
Thank you for the read. Do leave your comments.

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