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What Should I Know about Taking Antibiotics?

Updated on February 23, 2015
Penicillium mold
Penicillium mold
Alexander Fleming
Alexander Fleming

You should know the facts about antibiotics before taking even one

It would be hard to imagine our modern medical environment without the use of antibiotics which, in this case, pertain to synthetic chemicals produced by humankind and are generally used for therapeutic purposes.

But what should the average person know about antibiotics before taking them? Perhaps this article will tell you much of what you need to know, that is, without asking a doctor or nurse, which would probably cost you money. So please keep reading!

Short History of Antibiotics

People have been ingesting antibiotic or antibacterial substances for thousands of years. The ancient Greeks, Egyptians and Romans may have been the first to recognize the medicinal properties of antibiotics, though of course the germ theory of disease wasn’t presented until the late 1800s. By the way, antibiotics are drugs or medicine that destroy and/or inhibit the growth of bacteria, which can make a person sick or even cause death.

Biologist Alexander Fleming discovered in 1928 that the mold Penicillium contained a substance he called penicillin, which has antibiotic properties. But the first antibiotics weren’t developed until 1932, when Prontosil, a sulfonamide or sulfa drug, was made widely available just in time for use during World War Two. However, penicillin proved to be a much more effective antibiotic than Prontosil, essentially revolutionizing the use of such drugs in the field of medicine.

Interestingly, Alexander Fleming won the Nobel Prize in 1945 for his part in discovering and developing penicillin.

Nowadays, there are over 100 different kinds of antibiotics, including the various “penicillins” such as amoxicillin and penicillin G (a.k.a. Pfizerpen), and there are various sulfa drugs too, as well as many antibiotics most people have probably never heard of. However, many of these drugs have never been produced commercially or their usage has been discontinued.

Bacterial Resistance to Antibiotics

Since the 1950s, because of natural evolutionary processes, many bacteria have become resistant to the use of antibiotics. Drugs such penicillin and erythromycin, for example, have lost much of their effectiveness and their usage has for that reason been largely discontinued.

For instance, tuberculosis or TB, once easily treated with antibiotics, has become difficult if not impossible to treat because strains of the disease have become “super bugs” or multiple-drug-resistant tuberculosis. Now effective treatment of the disease with antibiotics can take months, and if the patient misses a dose or two, he or she may have to re-start this type of chemotherapy from the beginning!

Therefore, people are advised to use antibiotics only when needed. Paul L. Marion, author of The ICU Book, meaning the book for the Intensive Care Unit, has warned everyone:

The first rule of antibiotics is try not to use them, and the second rule is try not to use too many of them.

Keeping this dictum in mind, since antibiotics are only effective fighting bacteria, do not use antibiotics to fight viral or fungal infections or diseases. Many colds, throat infections and influenza are caused by viruses, for instance. Then again, there is strep throat, which is caused by a bacterium. So know your enemy before you begin taking antibiotics!

How to Take Antibiotics

Needless to say, antibiotics should be taken as directed by a doctor or other medical practitioner. Generally, antibiotics can be taken with or without food. According to an article in WebMD, you should only take the amount prescribed by a doctor and always take the entire prescription. Never stop taking antibiotics because you feel better, for some bacteria may survive days after beginning treatment. Simply put, you need to wipe them out once and for all!

Antibiotics and Alcohol

It is widely assumed that people shouldn’t imbibe in alcohol while taking antibiotics, but most common antibiotics can be taken with alcohol without reducing effectiveness or causing adverse side-effects. However, taking antibiotics such as metronidazole or cefmenoxime with alcohol can cause side-effects such as vomiting, nausea and shortness of breath, and the effectiveness of these “uncommon” antibiotics may be reduced accordingly as well.

So, when taking uncommon antibiotics such as the aforementioned, avoid the use of alcohol.

Natural vs. Synthetic Antibiotics

Some people prefer to fight bacterial infections using natural antibiotics such as grapefruit seed extract, echinacea, garlic or honey. As this strategy is certainly less expensive than obtaining a doctor’s prescription, conventional antibiotics may be somewhat, if not much stronger than natural ones. Conventional antibiotics may be able to stop bacteria from multiplying as well; otherwise, you could take the natural ones for weeks or months and not stop the infection permanently.


You should feel fortunate the modern medical world has antibiotics to treat infections and diseases that could otherwise cause disfigurement, disability or even death. But if you think you need to use antibiotics, you should probably consult a doctor first. Taking natural antibiotics is a cost effective option, but proceed with great care and caution if you decide to do so.

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    • Kosmo profile image

      Kelley 4 years ago from California

      Thanks for the comment, Insane Mundane. (Love your nickname.) That's right - consuming alcohol with most antibiotics doesn't make them less effective. I would like to add that taking natural antibiotics may be the best way to go for most folks, especially if you don't want to pay for a doctor's visit in order to obtain the prescription. Later!

    • Insane Mundane profile image

      Insane Mundane 4 years ago from Earth

      I think what RGNestle means, is that the excessive use of antibiotics can sometimes kill too much of the good bacteria that keeps the fungus Candida in check.

      Nice Hub...

      I'm glad you mentioned the alcohol part because many people think that alcohol cancels out all antibiotics, when there are only a few that you have to be careful with.

      The main point in this Hub, to me, is that people need to quit taking antibiotics when they don't need 'em.

    • Kosmo profile image

      Kelley 4 years ago from California

      Thanks for the comments, littlerose11, loveofnight and RGNestle. I appreciate all the feedback I can get. As for you, RGNestle, I'll have to look into candida and see what's up with that. Later!

    • RGNestle profile image

      RGNestle 4 years ago from Seattle

      One other thing you may want to know about taking antibiotics: One of the first bacteria to rebound from antibiotics is candida. It can proliferate to an extreme in a person who has just undergone antibiotic therapy. This has been linked to all sorts of ailments from the standard yeast infection all the way up to arthritis symptoms (the candid can begin growing around joints and the body attacks the candida and the joint along with it.)

      Anyone who has had antibiotic therapy should think about using one of the many candida cleanses which are available on the market. It can help a lot of people avoid aches, pains and other uncomfortable situations later on.

      Take care, all!

    • loveofnight profile image

      loveofnight 4 years ago from Baltimore, Maryland

      Useful and interesting, I learned a lot more than I knew about antibiotics. I prefer the natural way of things, I feel that people run to the pharmacy more than they should, which in turn makes their immune system lazy. We are a fortunate lot in that we were born into a world that allows us options and choices.....Thanks for the read

    • littlerose11 profile image

      littlerose11 4 years ago

      nice so educational

    • Kosmo profile image

      Kelley 4 years ago from California

      Thanks for the comment, teresapelka. Yes, antibiotics should be taken with care, and a swab test wouldn't be a bad idea, especially if one is allergic to many substances, things, etc. Drinking while taking them can have its risks as well. Later!

    • teresapelka profile image

      Teresa Pelka 4 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      A good hub.

      I was vaccinated against tuberculosis when a kid and I have sustained immunity - I think this is the best way to deal with this kind of pest, however, the vaccination leaves a scar.

      Antibiotics - never take them without a swab or lab test. I don't have much experience, but tetracycline antibiotics definitely should not be taken with alcohol.