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Antibiotics Guide

Medically reviewed on May 22, 2015 by L. Anderson, PharmD

You’ve most likely taken an antibiotic at least once in your lifetime. From treatments for painful “ strep” throat or ear infections as a child, to burning urinary tract infections or skin infections as an adult, antibiotics are one of the most highly utilized and important medication classes developed by pharmaceutical research.

Understanding the vast world of antibiotics and anti-infectives is no easy task. Anti-infectives are a large class of drugs that cover a broad range of infections, including fungal, viral, bacterial, and even protozoal infections. Athletes foot? That’s a common fungal infection. HIV? Antiviral combinations are needed. Bladder infection? Yes, that may need an antibiotic. And head lice? A topical antiparasitic can alleviate the itching.

An antibiotic specifically treats an infection caused by a bacteria, such as staphylococcus or streptococcus. To better understand antibiotics, it’s best to break them down into their top respective medication class and target conditions.

Top 25 Condition Searches for Antibiotics

Top Brand Name Antibiotics

Top Generic Antibiotics

Antibiotics are specific for the type of bacteria being treated and in general, cannot be interchanged from one infection to another. When antibiotics are used correctly, they are usually very safe with few side effects. However, as with most drugs, antibiotics can lead to side effects that may range from being a nuisance to serious or life-threatening. In infants and the elderly, in patients with kidney or liver disease, in pregnant or breastfeeding women, and in many other patient groups antibiotic doses may need to be adjusted based upon the specific characteristics of the patient, like kidney or liver function, weight, or age. Health care providers are able to assess each patient individually to determine the correct antibiotic and dose.

Antibiotics are not the correct choice for all infections. For example, many infections, such as certain sore throats, cough and colds, flu or acute sinusitis are viral in origin and do not need antibiotic treatment. These viral infections are “self-limiting”, meaning that your own immune system will kick into gear and fight the virus. In fact, using antibiotics for viral infections can increase the risk for antibiotic resistance, lower the options for future treatments if an antibiotic is needed, and put a patient at risk for side effects and extra cost due to unnecessary drug treatment.

See also: Top 10 Things You Need to Know About Antibiotic Resistance

Need-to-Know: Trending Antibiotic Articles

Patients frequently have questions about specific topics with antibiotics. Here are some articles that address common questions you may have about antibiotics.

Latest Antibiotic-Related Approval Articles

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