Antibiotics: What They Are And How To Use Them

When used correctly, antibiotics are extremely useful and important medicines. They fight certain infections and diseases caused by bacteria. Well known antibiotics are penicillin, tetracycline, Streptomycin, and chloramphenicol.

The different antibiotics work in different ways against specific infections. All antibiotics have dangers in their use, but some are far more dangerous than others. Great care must be taken in the choice and use of antibiotics.

There are many kinds of antibiotics, and each is sold under several brand names. This can be confusing. However, the most important antibiotics fall into a major groups:








Note: Ampicillin is a type of penicillin that kills more kinds of bacteria than do ordinary penicillins.

If you have a brand-name antibiotic and do not know to which group it belongs, read the fine print on the bottle or box. For example, if you have some Paraxin 'S' but do not know what is in it, read the fine print. It says 'chloramphenicol'.

Never use an antibiotic unless you know to what group it belongs, what diseases it digits, and the precautions you must take to use it safely.

Guidelines For The Use Of All Antibiotics

1. If you do not know exactly how to use the antibiotic and what infections it can be used for, do not use it.

2. Use only an antibiotic that is recommended for the infection you wish to treat.

3. Know the risks in using the antibiotic and take all the recommended precautions.

4. Use the antibiotic only in the recommended dose--no more, no less. The dose depends on the illness and the age or weight of the sick person.

5. Never use injections of antibiotics if taking them by mouth is likely to work as well. Inject only when absolutely necessary.

6. Keep using the antibiotics until the illness is completely cured, or for at least 2 days after the fever and other signs of infection have gone. (Some illness, like tuberculosis and leprosy, need to be treated for many months or years after the person feels better. Follow the instructions for each illness.)

7. If the antibiotic causes a skin rash, itching, difficult breathing, or any serious reactions, the person must stop using it and never use it again.

8. Only use antibiotics when the need is great. When antibiotics are used too much they begin not to work so well.

Guidelines For the Use of Certain Antibiotics

1. Before you inject penicillin or Ampicillin, always have ampules of Adrenalin (epinephrine) ready to control an allergic reaction if one occurs.

2. For persons who are allergic to penicillin, use another antibiotic such as Erythromycin or a sulfa.

3. Do not use tetracycline, or another broad-spectrum antibiotic, for an illness that can probably be controlled with penicillin or another narrow-spectrum antibiotic.

4. As a rule, use chloramphenicol only for typhoid fever. It is a dangerous drug. Never use it for mild illness. And never give it to newborn children (except perhaps for whooping cough).

4. Never inject tetracycline or chloramphenicol. They are safer, less painful, and do as much more good when taken by mouth.

6. Do not give tetracycline to pregnant women after the fourth month or to children under 6 years old.

7. As a general rule, use Streptomycin, and products that contain it, only for tuberculosis--and always together with other anti-tuberculosis medicines. Streptomycin in combination with penicillin can be used for deep wounds to the gut, appendicitis, and other specific infections when Ampicillin is not available (or is too costly), but should never be used for colds flu, and common respiratory infections.

8. Eating yogurt or curdled milk helps to replace necessary bacteria killed by antibiotics like Ampicillin and to return the body's natural balance.

What to do if an antibiotic does not seem to help

For most common infections antibiotics begin to bring improvement in a day or two. If the antibiotic you are using does not bring any improvement, it is possible that:

1. The illness is not what you think. You may be using the wrong medicine.

2. The dose of the antibiotic is not correct. Check it.

3. The bacteria have become resistant to the antibiotic being used (they no longer are harmed by it). Try another one of the antibiotics recommended for that illness.

4. You may not know enough to cure the illness. Get medical help, especially if the condition is serious or getting worse.