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Major Side Effects of Antibiotics: What should you be aware of.

Updated on February 18, 2013

Antibiotics are the most commonly prescribed medicine in today's world. It revolutionized the world of medicine since its introduction in 1950s. Severe illness, such as tuberculosis and pneumonia, are now successfully treated and many lives are saved.

Unfortunately, like any other drugs, antibiotics has the potential to cause some nasty side-effects that can deteriorate your health instead of improving. Therefore, you need to be aware of the major side-effects of antibiotics so that you can take proper action before it claims your health.

What side effects have you suffered after taking antibiotics?

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Video on Side-effects of Antibiotics

Some of the major side effects of antibiotics:

Upset Gastrointestinal system: Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stomachache and stomach irritation are some of the most common side effects of antibiotics. These are caused by the disruption of the natural bacterial balance of good and bad bacteria in our gut. Statistics suggest that at least 20% of patients who are taking antibiotics will develop diarrhea as a side effect. You always need to notify the doctor if you suffer from nausea and vomiting after taking antibiotics so that they can prescribe alternative medicine or you might also need to take anti nausea medication such as Maxalon or Ondansetron and anti-diarrhoeal medication such as Gastrostop along with antibiotics. Always consult your doctor before taking any medication.

Fungal Infections: Fungal infections or thrush in the mouth, throat and vagina are another commonly complained side effects of antibiotics. Women are mainly found to be suffering from these side-effects. Thrush causes itchiness and pain in skin and mouth, and also leads to unwanted vaginal discharge. It is caused by the overgrowth of fungus called candida albicans, a natural fungus in our body. Taking antibiotics upsets the normal balance of candida in our body and leads to unnecessary growth causing thrush. You might have to use anti fungal cream such as canestan to get some relief.

Allergic reaction: It happens when body overreacts to the foreign object introduced to the body. Let your doctor know if you are allergic to any antibiotics before they prescribe antibiotics for you. The most common sign of allergic reaction is rash in your body, but other symptoms may also follow such as wheezing, swelling of the tissues and difficulty breathing. Always notify your doctor if you notice such symptoms.

Anaphylactic Reaction

The most rare but most dangerous side effect of antibiotics is anaphylactic or severe and rapid allergic reaction. Signs and symptoms of anaphylactic reaction includes swelling of the skin, tongues, throat; itchy rash; itchiness in eyes, skin; runny nose; nasal congestion; difficulty breathing; chest tightness; dizziness; weakness followed by nausea, vomiting and diarrhea; confusion—it is a medical emergency, you need to call the emergency medical number or go to the hospital immediately.

Any one who has known allergy or who had some allergic reaction before has more chance of getting this side-effect.

Remember that anaphylactic reaction can occur even after taking second or third dose of antibiotics. So be really cautious when you take antibiotics.

To avoid getting resistant to antibiotics

  • Don't take antibiotics to treat viral illness such as cold or flu.
  • Always wash your hands properly with soap and water after handling any meat items and after using toilets.
  • Always take your antibiotics at the right time and finish your antibiotics course to avoid the increase in resistance to antibiotics.
  • Wear condoms while doing sex to avoid the getting infections such as UTI or gonorrohea.

Antibiotics resistance

Another growing problem that many people are suffering related to antibiotic is getting resistant to antibiotics. According to world health organization it is one of the major hazard to human health today. It is becoming major problem recently and damage caused by it to lives is reaching to the alarming level.

Antibiotics resistant means some particular antibiotics that was working for you before to kill bacteria in your body is not able to kill germs in your body anymore as those bacterias have become resistant to the antibiotics prescribed to you. It might happen due to taking antibiotics unnecessarily more often or because not finishing the course of antibiotics prescribed to you. In this case doctors might have to try other antibiotics that your body is not resistant to, but sometimes because of taking too many antibiotics, your body may already have become resistant to most of the available antibiotics; thanks to over-prescription and overuse of antibiotics.

Many patients in hospitals in many developed and developing countries are dying due to hospital acquired infections such as MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) and VRE (Vancomycin Resistant Enterococci) that are developed due to resistance to antibiotics.

When shouldn't You be Taking Antibiotics

Antibiotics basically kills bacterial infection; not viral illness. It is very crucial to know this difference because taking antibiotics unnecessarily during viral illness, such as when you have cold or flu, has increased the cases of antibiotics resistance immensely among patients.

Example of Bacterial infection and Viral Illness

(click column header to sort results)
Bacterial infection examples  
Viral illness examples  
Urinary tract infections, ear infection, sinus infections.
Common cold: flu, runny nose, sore throat, coughing, sneezing, headache.
Strep throats, cellulitis.
Influenza: fever, chills, headache, dry cough, body aches.
Acute bronchitis: cough and fever.
Wound and skin infections.
Pharyngitis or sore throat and viral gastroenteritis.
examples of bacterial and viral illness.
  • Remember that antibiotics can lead to the overgrowth of candida and causes other imbalance in our gut that gradually makes our immune system weak.
  • Long term use of antibiotics can suppress our immune system.

Before you take any antibiotics, always ask your doctor following questions

NSW health recommends that you should always ask questions mentioned below to your doctor before you take any antibiotics:

  • Why do I need antibiotics?
  • Is there any alternative?
  • What are the potential side effects that I should be aware of?
  • Does it interacts with any of the drugs I am taking?
  • How many days or months should I be taking them?
  • Should I take them with or away from food?
  • What should I do if I have side effects?
  • How can I avoid side effects?

Also, always make sure that you let your doctor know if you are taking any other medicine as antibiotics you are prescribed may interact and cause unnecessary sideeffects to your health.

To avoid getting infection unnecessarily

  • Always wash your hands properly with soap and running water after using toilet and after handling foods, especially meats.
  • Women should wash their genital area properly to avoid getting UTI.
  • Don't stop taking prescribed antibiotics just because you are starting to feel better. Remember to complete the course of antibiotics that has been prescribed to you.
  • Keep your home clean.



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    • rosika profile image

      rosika 5 years ago

      @pstrauble48.....thank you !

      @kathryn stratford: Thank you for your comment and sharing...You are lucky and healthy for not have to take antibiotics.....I totally agree about misinformation given about antibiotics and all those advertisement stating it as a wonder drug for some infections that doesn't work for them. No wonder antibiotics resistance has become such a major problem for hospitals and some of the infections are not treatable any more.

    • rosika profile image

      rosika 5 years ago

      @kellyteam: Thank you for stopping by and sharing kellyteam.....yes antibiotics has some nasty effect that can be hazardous to life.

    • Kathryn Stratford profile image

      Kathryn 5 years ago from Manchester, Connecticut

      I don't think I have ever had to take an antibiotic, unless I did when I was a kid.

      This is a very informative hub! Thanks for sharing!

      When you mentioned that there are some things you do not need antibiotics for, it reminded me of when someone on the news said something about taking antibiotics for the flu, or some condition that has nothing to do with bacterial infections, and I was astounded by how a news channel could make such a mistake (and not even correct themselves later). I have noticed several mistakes on the news just in the past few months, so you really can't believe everything they say.

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 5 years ago from sunny Florida

      Great job. It has been years since I have had to take meds but this is useful information for all to know.

      Sending Angels your way :) ps

    • kellyteam profile image

      Willette 5 years ago from Michigan

      This is an excellent hub. Full of lots of good information. You really did your homework on this one. Some people don't realize how antibiotics can be more harmful than good sometimes. Will be sharing this information. Thanks for the great hub. Thumbs up, useful and awesome.

    • rosika profile image

      rosika 5 years ago

      Thank you for your comment Bill.....oh you are really really lucky...taking good care of health is one of the main way to avoid antibiotics!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I am one of the lucky ones with great health. I don't even remember the last time I took an antibiotic. Great information here my friend.