If you take an antibiotic longer than needed, the bug you’re fighting could become resistant to it. The most important thing to do is make sure you follow a doctor’s dosage and timing instructions.

Have you noticed that doctors are more cautious than ever when they prescribe antibiotics? While antibiotics are one of the most innovative medical achievements of the 20th century, we have learned a lot about the risks associated with their overuse.

Most day-to-day illnesses, such as the common cold, are caused by viruses. Adults get two to three colds per year on average, and children get them even more often.1 What’s most important to understand is that antibiotics cannot kill viruses and are not effective against viral infections. Antibiotics are specifically formulated to resolve bacterial causes of illness, which are far less common.

When we take an antibiotic unnecessarily, we run the risk of harm. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, antibiotics are the most common cause of emergency department visits for adverse drug events in children. Inappropriate use of antibiotics also leads to strains of bacteria that are highly resistant to future attempts to treat them. According to the World Health Organization, antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest threats to global health…today.2 Illnesses such as pneumonia, blood poisoning, and infections from contaminated food are becoming harder to treat.

A “superbug” is not the world’s largest termite; it’s the term to describe a bacterial infection that becomes harder to cure with antibiotics. Superbugs develop when they adapt to an antibiotic because they’ve been overexposed to it. Since antibiotic resistance is a worldwide concern, guidelines for taking medications are continually being updated due to advances in medical research.

Our bodies may also be able to fight conditions such as sinus infections without any prescription antibiotics at all. Your doctor is your best guide to understanding whether you should take a medication.

Antibiotics should be taken correctly as well as when they are needed. When you are prescribed an antibiotic, please follow these guidelines:

  • Take every dose; don’t skip any
  • Always complete the course as prescribed
  • Do not save any medication for the next time you are ill

If your doctor chooses not to prescribe a medication, follow the instructions given to help you recover naturally. And remember, antibiotics are never prescribed to treat viruses (e.g., cold, flu, shingles, etc.).

When it comes to prescription as well as over-the-counter (OTC) medications, here a few helpful reminders:

DO AVOID
Follow your doctor’s instructions regarding how long to take a medication Disregard the doctor’s instructions and take a medication the way you did a few years ago, even if it’s the same one; your pharmacist can also help you understand prescription directions
Read the complete prescription and additional information when you receive a medication for the first time Assume that you know how to take a medication, especially if you’re replacing it with a new type of medication (example: if you receive a new medicine for hypertension, you may have to take it twice a day instead of once a day with your old medicine)
Understand possible side effects Ignore side effects; always contact your doctor if you have problems with a new medication
Pay attention to dosage timing Think that taking all your meds in the morning and at bedtime are the best times of day to take each prescription; above all, know what to do when you miss a dose of each medication
Take medication with or without food as directed Disregard warnings about foods that can affect a medication’s ability to work (for example, statin drugs to control high cholesterol should not be taken at the same time you eat grapefruit or drink grapefruit juice)
Set alarms to remind yourself when to take medication if needed; you can also coordinate daily activities with the times you take medications Forget that you need to maintain constant levels of some medications in your body throughout the day; pill organizers are also extremely helpful if you take medications multiple times a day
Be sure your doctor knows which OTC medications and supplements you’re taking Ignore the possible complications that can arise when mixing prescription and OTC medications

Teladoc can help with medications

After diagnosing your condition, Teladoc’s physicians can send a prescription to a pharmacy when medically necessary. Just as when you work with your primary care physician, be sure to let us know what prescription and OTC medications you’re currently taking, including vitamins and other supplements, even if they’re not related to the condition or illness that Teladoc is treating. You can easily update your family’s medications and even select your favorite pharmacies in the app anytime.

Resources

1https://www.cdc.gov/features/rhinoviruses/index.html
2https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/antibiotic-resistance

This portion of the Teladoc website occasionally offers health, fitness, and nutritional information and is provided for educational purposes only. You cannot rely on any information provided here as a substitute for or replacement of professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Teladoc cannot assure that the information contained on this site always includes the most recent findings or developments with respect to the particular subject matter covered.

If you ever have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional. Do not disregard, avoid, or delay obtaining medical or health-related advice from your healthcare professional because of something you may have read on this site. The use of any information provided on this site is solely at your own risk.

If you are in the United States and think you are having a medical or health emergency, call your healthcare professional, or 911, immediately.

The COVID-19 pandemic is rapidly evolving. While we are continuously reviewing and updating our content, some of the information in this article may not reflect the most up-to-date scientific information. Please visit the online resources provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO) and your local public health department to stay informed on the latest news, or reach out to Teladoc to speak with one of our board-certified physicians.