How are antibiotics and vaccines similar

Antibiotics - What You Should Know

How do antibiotics work?

Antibiotics support the body's defense system in fighting pathogenic bacteria. This is necessary when bacteria have entered the body and are multiplying. Then they can cause inflammation and damage organs. Some antibiotics kill the bacteria, while others prevent them from multiplying further.

Antibiotics not only work against pathogens that cause disease, but also against beneficial bacteria that live on the skin and mucous membranes. In principle, the following applies to the use of antibiotics: As often as necessary and as rarely as possible.

When do antibiotics work?

Infections are most often caused by bacteria or viruses. These pathogens cause different diseases. However, it is not always easy to decide at the beginning whether it is a bacterial or a viral infection: the symptoms can be similar.

Diseases such as:

  • Scarlet fever

  • Tick ​​borreliosis

  • gonorrhea

Often caused by bacteria for example:

  • Tonsillitis (purulent angina

  • lung infection

  • Cystitis

  • purulent inflammation of the skin

  • Meningitis

In the case of bacterial diseases, it can be useful and sometimes vital to use antibiotics.

When do antibiotics not help?

Antibiotics are ineffective against viruses. Some of the diseases that viruses can cause include:

  • most common colds, such as runny nose, cough, sore throat, or fever

  • Flu (Influenza) or Covid-19

  • many forms of bowel inflammation (diarrhea)

  • measles

Antibiotics do not help against these viral diseases.

Side effects of antibiotics

Most antibiotics are safe and well-tolerated drugs. Nevertheless, they can cause side effects. Side effects can be for example:

  • Gastrointestinal complaints, such as diarrhea, abdominal pain and nausea

  • Fungal infections in the mouth and throat or in the genital area

  • allergic skin reactions such as redness and itching

Before taking antibiotics

Before taking any antibiotic, you should be well informed about the treatment. Ask your doctor or your pharmacy:

  • Why do I need the antibiotic?

  • What are the possible side effects?

  • How many days do I have to take the antibiotic?

  • How many times a day should I take it?

  • What do I do if I forget the medication?

  • Can I take the antibiotic with a meal or is it necessary to take it apart?

  • Will the antibiotic affect other drugs I'm taking?

Before taking it, tell your doctor whether you are pregnant or breastfeeding. Also tell if you have ever been unable to tolerate a certain antibiotic.

Why be careful with antibiotics?

The more often antibiotics are used, the higher the risk that resistant (resistant) Bacteria develop and spread. More on this in other information: see also "Briefly informed"

What else can you do

  • Take the antibiotic as directed. That means: stick to the given intake times. Continue treatment even if you feel better.

  • Do not take an antibiotic that has been prescribed for other people. Do not give your antibiotic to anyone either.

  • Some drinks change the way certain antibiotics work, such as milk. It is therefore best to take the product with water.

  • Important for women who use contraception with the pill: An antibiotic can impair the effectiveness of the pill. You should therefore also use non-hormonal contraceptives such as condoms.

  • It may help if you write down the name, dose, timing, and side effects of any antibiotics you or your child have taken.

  • Don't expect you or your child to be given an antibiotic every time you get infected. Even with many colds caused by bacteria, it may be sufficient for the time being to take it easy and wait.

  • It is best if there is no infection in the first place. For example, you can protect yourself and others with hygiene, vaccinations and a mouth and nose covering.

December 2020, published by the German Medical Association and the National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians