Antibiotics are medicines that fight infections caused by bacteria. These powerful medicines have been saving lives since they were discovered in the 1940s.
A bacterial infection is caused by a bacteria (germ) that can be treated with an antibiotic. Examples of bacterial infections include:
If you need an antibiotic, your health care provider will choose the right one for you.
A viral infection is caused by a virus (germ) that spreads easily and must run its course. Antibiotics will not treat a viral infection and are not recommended. Examples of viral infections include:
Some of the germs that antibiotics can treat are getting so strong that they can resist the medicine. This means that the medicine won't work to treat the illness. If the germs are not stopped, they can make you sick again.
Using an antibiotic too much may make germs resistant to the medicine. This can make you sick longer. These germs can also grow and spread from person to person, which makes some diseases hard to control.
Antibiotics may interact with prescription and over-the-counter medicines. This means the medicines won't work as well when taken together. For example:
Please make sure your health care provider knows all of the medicines you are taking. Your provider can tell you if the antibiotic may interact with your medicine(s).
Allina Health's Patient Education Department, What You Need to Know About Antibiotics, ic-ah-14035Information adapted from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Allina Health's Patient Education Department experts