Derived from microorganisms like germs (for example fungi and bacteria) and bugs, antibiotics are drugs designed to fight multiply types of bacteria. Bacteria and viruses differ in that the former can live on its own while the latter can only live and multiply within the cells that they invade. Also, viruses tend to be harmful while most bacteria within humans are completely harmless. For those that are damaging to the body’s tissues, antibiotics are prescribed to eliminate the threat since some of these can result in death.

Antibiotics work mainly in two ways. Many simply retard bacterial growth by prohibiting the bacteria’s ability to multiply and spread while others attack and kill the invading bodies by affecting their structures. One of the reasons antibiotics are effective is that they cause no interference in the body. Instead, they work with the body’s own immune system by boosting or initiating the responses needed to eliminate the bacteria.

Uses of Antibiotics

Antibiotics can be administered in oral (tablets and liquids), topical (like ointments or eye drops) and intravenous (IV) forms. Classes of antibiotics include Cephalosporins, Penicillins, Macrolides, Tetracyclines, Aminoglycosides and Fluoroquinolones.

Conditions that are effectively fought with antibiotics include multiple types of the stomach flu, the common cold and influenza, infections of the ear, lungs (like pneumonias), skin, tonsils (tonsillitis), throat (pharyngitis), urinary tract (kidneys and bladder) and open cuts and bruises especially when accompanied by tenderness, redness, pain and swelling. Fevers surpassing 100.4°F in babies under three months are also be treated with antibiotics once proven to be a result of bacterial infections.

Also on the list are upper-respiratory infections especially bronchitis and sinus attacks exceeding 10 days or any upper airway infection that causes the depositing of phlegm. These infections are often characterized by thick, yellow or green secretions from the nose or chest with blood oftentimes being present.

For an antibiotic to be effective, the bacteria it is chosen to fight must be sensitive to it. This is so because any immunity to the chemical on the bacteria’s part will prevent the actions that need to be carried out. Antibiotics must also be geared towards the specific strain of bacteria being treated and not just the type if falls under. How fast the antibiotic takes to enter the site of infection or reach its ‘therapeutic level” is also a factor.

Choosing age appropriate forms of antibiotics is important since giving those made for adults to children can result in health threats. Pregnant and nursing mothers must also avoid some types because defects such as permanent teeth discoloration in children may result from usage. These are seldom the responsibility of patients since antibiotics have to be prescribed by a certified doctor.

Key also to the effectiveness of these chemical is strict adherence to dosage; amounts and prescribed times, as well as meal accompaniment since some bacteria can build up defense mechanisms that will render the antibiotic useless if taken haphazardly. Therefore, make sure that you understand the necessary information before leaving the doctor’s office or your pharmacy.