5 things to know about antibiotics

Antibiotics work quickly and efficiently. What you need to know to make sure they have their full effect.

Text: Nicole Krättli; photo: iStock

Take antibiotics as prescribed

It’s not the body that gets used to antibiotics, but the bacteria. When this happens, the drug no longer helps against specific bacteria, which is known as antibiotic resistance. That’s why you should only take antibiotics when it’s essential – and always follow the doctor’s instructions.

Never stop taking antibiotics without medical advice

Antibiotics often take effect very quickly, so it’s tempting to stop taking them too early. However, even though your symptoms have eased, bacteria may remain in the body and multiply again once you stop taking the drug – and may even build up resistance. So it’s essential to stick to the doctor’s instructions.

Not compatible with all medications

Antibiotics may interact with other medicines, so it’s important to inform your doctor if you’re taking any other medication. For example, caution is advised with certain blood thinners or heartburn remedies (antiacids). And some antibiotics, such as rifampicin and rifabutin impair the effect of the contraceptive pill.

Take only with tap water

You shouldn’t consume milk or dairy products for at least two hours before and after taking certain antibiotics. The same applies to calcium-rich mineral water, fruit juice and caffeinated drinks. It’s best to swallow antibiotics with a glass of tap water.

Powerless against viruses

Antibiotics only kill bacteria, so they don’t help with infections such as bronchitis, flu, colds or a sore throat, which are usually caused by viruses.