Antibiotic drugs



Antibiotics are medicines used to treat or prevent infections caused by bacteria. They are able to kill the bacteria themselves and / or prevent their multiplication and spread within the body and transmission to other people.

Antibiotics are not effective against viral infections such as colds, flu and some types of coughs and sore throats (read the Hoax).

In case of non-serious infections caused by bacteria, it is not necessary to resort to antibiotics immediately as our immune system is, in most cases, able to resolve them on its own.

It is essential that antibiotics are prescribed by the doctor and that the doses, methods and duration of therapy indicated by him are respected in order to obtain the maximum benefits from the therapy and prevent the development of antibiotic resistance. It is a phenomenon that makes bacteria insensitive to the action of antibiotics, thus damaging not only the person who takes them at that moment, since it makes them ineffective, but also all those who in the future will be infected by those bacteria which have become resistant to antibiotics.

These drugs are mainly used in cases where the bacterial infection has little chance of healing in the absence of treatment and / or it could take a very long time to be eradicated (read the Hoax). Antibiotic therapy is also indicated where there is a high risk of spreading the infection to other people or where there is a danger that serious complications may occur.

For them to be effective it is essential to take antibiotics exactly as directed by your doctor and it is a mistake to stop therapy or reduce doses just because you feel better.

Antibiotics should be taken at regular intervals; if you forget to take a dose at the specified time, take it as soon as possible. However, if you notice you have forgotten just before the time for your next dose, you shouldn't take a double dose.
While doubling a dose of antibiotics generally has no serious consequences, it can still increase the risk of unwanted side effects such as stomach pain, diarrhea, or general malaise.

About 1 in 15 people may have an allergic reaction to antibiotics, especially penicillins and cephalosporins. In rare cases, a serious reaction (anaphylaxis) may occur which requires urgent medical attention.

Some antibiotics are not suitable for people with certain diseases or for pregnant or breastfeeding women. Therefore, they should only be used on prescription and never "borrowed" from a friend / family member or on the advice of unqualified personnel.

In some cases they can also interact with other drugs (for example, contraceptive pills) or with alcohol. For this reason, the package leaflet, which lists the possible interactions and contraindications, in the package of the medicine should always be consulted.

There are many types of antibiotics, which can be grouped into six main classes:

  • penicillins (for example, penicillin, amoxicillin), widely used to treat a variety of infections including those of the skin, respiratory system and urinary tract
  • cephalosporins (for example, cephalexin), also used to treat different types of infections but also effective in the treatment of serious infections such as meningitis or septicemia
  • aminoglycosides (for example, gentamicin, tobramycin), used mainly for serious infections (septicemia) due to the possible side effects they could cause. These include hearing loss and kidney damage. Normally prescribed by injection (by injection), in the case of ear or eye infections they can also be used in the form of drops
  • tetracyclines (for example, tetracycline, doxycycline), widely used but usually prescribed in the treatment of severe acne or rosacea
  • macrolides (for example, erythromycin, clarithromycin), particularly useful in the treatment of respiratory tract infections, as an alternative to penicillin, in people allergic to it or in the case of infections with penicillin-resistant bacteria
  • fluoroquinolones (for example, ciprofloxacin, levofloxacin), broad-spectrum antibiotics that can be used to treat a wide variety of infections

For more information on the active ingredients named in the contribution or in any case belonging to this class of drugs, you can visit the website of the Italian Medicines Agency (AIFA) or search for a drug using the trade name and not the active ingredient. site you can find all the package inserts of the drugs and also some additional information. If "revoked" is written next to the drug name, the drug is no longer on the market.

How to use antibiotics

Antibiotics are used to treat or prevent infections caused by bacteria, so they are not effective against viral infections such as colds, flu and some types of coughs and sore throats.

Beyond serious infections, prescribing antibiotics should be limited to those infections that, while not particularly serious, would be unlikely to heal in the absence of treatment (for example, some types of acne) or which, if not treated promptly, could infect other people as happens, for example, with impetigo and chlamydial infections. Furthermore, antibiotics are indicated where they are able to speed up healing, as occurs for infections affecting the urinary tract, or when there is a risk of complications as occurs, for example, for cellulite and pneumonia, especially in particularly vulnerable people such as the elderly over 75, infants, people with heart problems, diabetics and individuals with immune system defects (for example, following chemotherapy or because of AIDS, etc. ).

Antibiotics are sometimes prescribed as a precaution, i.e. to prevent disease (antibiotic prophylaxis). Generally, this type of treatment is recommended in the case of surgical interventions in which there is a high risk of developing an infection or when its appearance could have dramatic effects.

For example, they can be used in case of:

  • some types of eye surgery such as cataract removal, glaucoma
  • implantation of a joint prosthesis, for example at the hip
  • interventions on the abdomen, eg. removal of the appendix

Antibiotic prophylaxis may also be recommended in people who do not have a spleen (which plays an important role in eliminating bacteria from the blood) or with a spleen that does not function properly (patients undergoing chemotherapy or with Mediterranean or sickle cell anemia), or in people who have an increased risk of serious complications (for example, in case of rheumatic disease).

Similarly, antibiotic prophylaxis is recommended in the case of wounds with a high probability of becoming infected, such as, for example, those caused by a human or animal bite or deep wounds that come into contact with earth or fecal material.

Side effects

The most common side effects associated with the use of antibiotics generally concern the digestive system and are observed in about 1 in 10 people (read the Hoax).

Between these:

  • diarrhea
  • nausea and / or vomiting
  • abdominal bloating
  • abdominal pain
  • loss of appetite

Usually, these are slight manifestations and are limited to the period of use of the antibiotic.

Side effects other than those listed should be reported to the attending physician immediately.

In some cases (about 1 in 15 people) antibiotics, particularly penicillins and cephalosporins, can cause an "allergy. Slight or moderate reactions, which can be quickly resolved with the intake of antihistamines, can occur in the form of urticaria (spots itchy, more or less prominent, pink in color), or sneezing In rare cases, an antibiotic can cause a very serious and potentially fatal allergic reaction, known as anaphylactic reaction.

The initial symptoms are similar to those described for mild reactions but can evolve into:

  • rapid heart rhythm
  • increasing breathing difficulty caused by swelling of the throat
  • sudden feeling of anxiety and fear
  • sudden drop in blood pressure, with a sense of confusion and dizziness
  • loss of consciousness

The anaphylactic reaction represents a potentially fatal medical emergency. If its occurrence is suspected, it is necessary to contact the emergency telephone number 112 or 118 immediately or go to the emergency room immediately.

Antibiotics belonging to the tetracyclines family can make the skin more sensitive to sunlight and artificial light sources such as sunlamps.

Exposure to light sources of this type should, therefore, be as limited as possible during the period of taking these drugs.

Interactions with other drugs

Antibiotics can interact with other medicines or substances, producing effects other than those expected. Therefore, it is always necessary to consult the information in the package leaflet present in the package and / or ask the attending physician and / or pharmacist for directions.

Some of the more common interactions include:

  • alcohol, absolutely avoid drinking wine or alcohol while taking metronidazole or tinidazole, and for 48 hours after, as the combination with alcohol can cause discomfort, stomach pain, flushing and migraine. With other antibiotics, taking alcohol is allowed as long as it is moderate
  • contraceptives, rifampicin and rifabutin can reduce the effectiveness of the contraceptive pill. In this case, it would be advisable to use additional contraceptive systems, such as condoms
  • drugs, in case of antibiotic therapy some medicines should be avoided or taken only under strict medical supervision. It is therefore important, where antibiotics are prescribed, to inform the doctor of all the therapies that are already being taken.

Antibiotic resistance

The incorrect use of antibiotics in time and in the manner or for diseases in which they are not indicated such as, for example, viral infections, reduces their effectiveness, leading to the appearance of the phenomenon of antibiotic resistance.

In-depth link

NHS. Antibiotics (English)

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