Antibiotics can help you feel better after some common illnesses by fighting the bacteria that cause these infections. In addition to taking the prescribed dose, there are a few other, lesser-known things that can help you recover as quickly as possible.
Infectious disease researcher Ginva Dumyati, MD, and emergency physician Bohdan Klimochko, DO, offer advice for the next time your doctor makes an appointment.
How do antibiotics work?
Antibiotics are drugs that disrupt the normal activity of bacteria in certain infections, such as strep throat, bacterial pneumonia, and urinary tract infections. Antibiotics can come in the form of pills, liquids, creams, ointments, or injectables.
Antibiotics do not work against viral infections. Using antibiotics to treat viruses, such as the common cold or the flu, can cause harm. Doctors are particularly concerned that overuse of antibiotics could lead to the development of new, antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria. It is important to always consult a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.
What should I do when starting a new antibiotic?
- Follow the prescription exactly, including taking it with or without food. Certain foods can affect the body’s absorption of certain antibiotics, making them less effective.
- You may start to feel better after the first few doses, but be sure to complete the entire course as prescribed. If you don’t do this, the bacteria may not be completely eliminated from your system.
- Take it at the same time each day to maintain a steady level in your body.
- Watch for side effects, allergic reactions, and signs of a yeast infection. Contact your healthcare provider if you experience any of these.
- Tell your healthcare provider about all medications, supplements, or herbal remedies you take. Some interactions with antibiotics can cause negative side effects or change their effectiveness. For example, some birth control pills may be less effective when taken with certain antibiotics.
- Avoid alcohol as it can interact negatively with some antibiotics.
- Do not save or share any doses of the antibiotic.
How soon will I start feeling better?
It varies, but symptoms may improve within 48-72 hours of starting the antibiotic. The body continues to respond and recover after the course of antibiotics is over. You may feel back to normal soon after finishing the medication, but it may also take a little longer.
Should I change my toothbrush after starting an antibiotic?
Although some providers recommend getting a new toothbrush two or three days after taking a throat antibiotic, experts differ. More studies on this topic are needed to prove whether this is necessary.
How do antibiotics affect gut health?
Antibiotics can cause digestive problems because they can throw off the balance of good bacteria in your gut. This is another reason to take antibiotics only when prescribed by your provider. A healthy diet, including foods containing probiotics, can help restore the good bacteria in your gut.
It’s normal to have some stomach discomfort while taking antibiotics, but if you notice persistent symptoms of diarrhea, abdominal pain, nausea, or fever, it’s important to see your healthcare provider. Some people may experience a colon infection called C. difficilewhich can be serious.
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