We have all been prescribed antibiotics for an infection at some point in our lives, be it for an ear infection, urinary tract infection or another bacterial infection. Although these are useful medications, they may still carry some risks. Risks with antibiotic use include side effects, drug interactions and antibiotic resistance with overuse.
What are side effects of antibiotics?
1. Allergic Reactions
· These can range from a mild reaction such as a skin rash or itching to a more severe reaction such as swelling of the face and throat or breathing difficulties
· Be sure to tell your healthcare provider of past reactions to antibiotics
2. Stomach Upset
· This can include nausea, vomiting or diarrhea
· If persistent, these side effects can lead to dehydration and other complications
· Check with your pharmacist if you can take the antibiotic with food to reduce stomach upset
3. Sun Sensitivity
· Some classes of antibiotics can make your skin more sensitive to the sun or other sources of UV light, such as tanning beds, and cause sunburns
· Ask your pharmacist how to prevent this side effect with sunscreen
4. Clostridium difficile or ‘C. diff’ Infection
· Antibiotics kill both the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ bacteria in the intestine which can worsen diarrhea and increase the risk for developing C. difficile infections
· C. difficile is a bacteria that causes symptoms of diarrhea, fever, loss of appetite, nausea and abdominal pain
· Contact your doctor if diarrhea persists even after finishing the antibiotic or if you have diarrhea with the above symptoms
This list does not include all side effects of antibiotics. Talk to your pharmacist if you think you may be experiencing a side effect from your antibiotic.
Some antibiotics can interact with other medications by reducing their effectiveness or causing more side effects. Antibiotics can interact with some blood thinners such as warfarin and increase the risk for bleeding, or they can reduce the effectiveness of birth control pills. Ask your pharmacist if any of your medications interact with your antibiotic.
Repeated use of antibiotics can lead to the emergence of resistant bacteria. With antibiotic resistance, antibiotics become less effective in treating an infection and the bacteria become harder to kill. Antibiotic resistance leads to higher medical costs, prolonged hospital stays and increased mortality. It is important to use antibiotics appropriately and only when necessary to ensure they remain effective.
Ask your pharmacist if your antibiotic is the best treatment option for your type of infection. Remember, not all infections require an antibiotic!