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When should you take antibiotics?

So you’re not feeling well. Maybe you have a sore throat or your sinuses are wreaking havoc in your head? How do you know if you need an antibiotic or if an antihistamine or analgesic is enough?

If you are suffering from the common cold or the flu, an antibiotic will not help you. Antibiotics only work on illnesses caused by bacteria and they are not effective against viruses.

You should consult your doctor if you think you have a bacterial infection. If a physical exam is not enough to determine the cause of your illness, then he or she may also order a blood or urine test to confirm a diagnosis. Once the doctor determines whether an infection, or a simple virus, he or she may prescribe you with an antibiotic.

Be sure to follow the exact instructions for taking the medication. Prescriptions are written to cover the time needed to help your body fight all the harmful bacteria. If you stop your antibiotic early, the bacteria that have not yet been killed can restart an infection.

Don’t think that you can save your medication for one infection and use it for another infection later on. Leftover antibiotics are not a complete dose, and they will not work to kill all your disease causing bacteria. Always talk to your doctor because your symptoms may not be caused by bacteria. If you do have another bacterial infection, a complete dose of the appropriate antibiotic is needed to kill all the harmful bacteria. And the medication prescribed for an earlier infection may not work on a later infection — especially if you only have a partial dose.

How safe are antibiotics?
Antibiotics are generally safe and should always be taken as prescribed by your doctor. However, they may alter the effectiveness of other medications and cause side effects or allergic reactions. If you are experiencing any adverse effect of your medicine, consult your doctor right away.

Antibiotics can kill most of the bacteria in your body that are sensitive to them and that includes good bacteria. By destroying the bacterial balance, it may cause upset stomach, diarrhea, vaginal infections, or other problems.

If you take antibiotics unnecessarily you may contribute to the development of antibiotic resistance. If you become sick and your bacteria are resistant to your prescribed antibiotic, your illness lasts longer and you may have to make return office and pharmacy visits to find the right drug to kill the germ. For more serious infections it is possible that you would need to be hospitalized or could even die if the infection could not be stopped. Also, while the resistant bacteria are still alive, you act as a carrier of these germs, and you could pass them to friends or family members.

How does a doctor decide which antibiotic to prescribe?

Your doctor will examine you and consider all of your symptoms in order to tell if they should prescribe an antibiotic and, if so, which one. Physicians can also take a culture to see if bacteria are causing a particular illness, such as a throat culture to determine if you have strep throat. If the cause of the infection is unclear, but suspected to be due to bacteria, the doctor may prescribe a broad-spectrum antibiotic that is useful for controlling a wide variety of bacterial types. The physician may choose either a generic or name-brand antibiotic depending on your circumstances.

What should women know before taking antibiotics?

Antibiotics often lead to a vaginal yeast infection. Because antibiotics kill the normal bacteria in the vagina, yeast no longer have competition for food and grow rapidly. Yeast cells begin attacking tissues in the vagina, usually causing one or all of the following symptoms: itching, burning, pain during sex and vaginal discharge. If you think you have a yeast infection, consult a physician.

Antibiotics may also reduce the effectiveness of birth control pills.

As with other medications, some antibiotics may be transmitted to a fetus, and some may cause harm. Therefore, you should never take antibiotics without your doctor’s knowledge if you are pregnant or nursing.

Tips for Seniors: Be informed about your medicines

Are you a senior, or do you have a senior in your life who is in your care? These are important tips in helping keep elders (and others) safe when it comes to managing medications.

Most importantly, don’t be afraid to ask your pharmacist about the medicines you are taking if you have any questions about them – especially about new medicines and how to take them.

At the Doctor

  • When you are prescribed a new medication, ask your doctor to clearly print the name of the new medication on the prescription slip. If you cannot read the prescription drug name, it’s possible that your pharmacist cannot read it either.
  • Also ask your doctor to print his or her name or circle his or her name on the prescription sheet so that the pharmacist can read it.
  • Ask your doctor for information about your new medication so you can be informed about why you are taking it and if it has any known side-effects.
  • Tell your doctor about all prescription and non-prescription medications you are taking and include over-the-counter, herbal, vitamin, and dietary supplements.
  • Tell your doctor about any allergies you may have.

At the Pharmacy

  • Tell your pharmacist about all prescription and non-prescription medications you are taking and include over-the-counter (OTC), herbal, vitamin, and dietary supplements. Better yet, keep all of your prescriptions at the same pharmacy so they have a record of all your medications.
  • Tell your pharmacist about any allergies you may have.
  • Ask the pharmacist for the patient information sheet explaining your new medication. If you have any questions about your medication, be sure to ask the pharmacist.
  • Look at the label carefully when you get a new medication. If there is information on the label of your medication that you do not understand, ask the pharmacist.
  • Check the labels or ask your pharmacist whether your new prescription medication contains acetaminophen. If it does, check all OTC medications you take while using the prescription medication to see if the OTC drug products also contain acetaminophen. Do not take two medications that contain acetaminophen, as this can be an overdose and can lead to liver damage. Adults should not take more than 4 grams (4000 mg) of acetaminophen per day. KnowYourDose.org provides additional information on taking the correct amount of acetaminophen to avoid overdose. Ask your pharmacist if you have questions.
  • Look at your medication label and contents if it is a refill. If the medication looks different from the pills you were taking, tell your pharmacist immediately.
  • Count the pills you are given and make sure the number matches the amount indicated on the label – this is especially important with controlled substances such as pain pills. If you are to receive a 10-day supply of a drug to be taken once a day, for example, make sure there are 10 pills.

When you are taking a medication

  • Remember to turn on the lights and get your glasses. It’s easy to mistake one pill bottle for another. Make sure you double check and read the label every time.
  • Tell your doctor or pharmacist as soon as possible if you are experiencing any side effects or changes in the way you feel when taking a new medication.
  • Go to your appointments for scheduled laboratory tests or follow-up visits. Monitoring helps doctors and pharmacists know if your medication is working.
  • If you take more than one medication use a pillbox or several pillboxes that hold medications for a week, and label your boxes. Example: AM; Noon; PM; Bedtime. Be sure to keep this out of reach of children. Our pharmacists can help you or your loved one by filling up their pillboxes every week. This is a FREE service we offer all of our customers.
  • Use a calendar or medication record to help you remember whether you have taken your medications each day and on time.

If you make a mistake with your medication 

  • Ask your doctor or pharmacist what to do if you miss a dose of your medication.
  • Ask your doctor or pharmacist what to do if you accidentally take more medicine than is recommended.
  • If you take too much medication or do not feel well after taking your medication and you cannot reach your doctor or pharmacist, call the call the poison control center immediately. Call 800-222-1222 from anywhere in the United States to be connected to a poison control center.

Follow medication safety tips

  • Ask your pharmacist or doctor to review the medications you are taking at least once a year.
  • Carry a medication record with you in your purse or wallet. Particularly, take your medication record with you to doctor’s appointments and to your pharmacy when you are picking up new medication(s). The list will remind you of all of the medications you are taking and help the doctor and pharmacist manage your drugs appropriately. Be sure to share this list with a loved one so they can provide information and ask questions in the event that you are unable to do so.
  • Store your medications as instructed by the pharmacist and keep them in their original containers. Place them in a safe place away from heat, moisture, or freezing temperatures, and away from where food is stored. The bathroom cabinet is not the best place for medications. You may want to store your medications in a locked cabinet, a medication safe, or on a high shelf in a linen closet. Be sure to store them out of sight and reach of children, to avoid unintentional misuse by your child or misuse by family or visitors to your home.
  • Keep all medications out of reach of children. Do not believe a safety cap will keep children from opening the medication bottle.
  • Dispose of medications that are expired or unwanted. Medications are considered expired if they are one year from the date the prescription is filled, unless otherwise noted. Do not discard medications where small children or pets can find them.Bring your expired and unused prescriptions to a pharmacy for proper disposal.
  • Do not flush medications down the toilet to avoid contaminating your local water supply system.
  • Do not share medications prescribed for you with anyone else.


October is American Pharmacists Month

October is American Pharmacists Month and we thought we’d share some important facts about who pharmacists are, what we do, as well was the code of ethics and the oath that we take before serving our communities.

As a whole, the 290,780 pharmacists nationwide counsel patients 10 million times each day, serving as key players in the health care system.

Pharmacists are experts in drugs developed to treat and prevent human diseases. We advise doctors and patients on which prescription and over-the-counter drugs, medicines and therapies are appropriate for treating certain health conditions. We also prepare medications, fill prescriptions, and teach patients how to take their medication.

We are the most accessible healthcare professionals and know more about prescription and over-the-counter medications then any other member of the health care team.

Who we are and what we do:

  • Pharmacists are experts on the properties and proper use of medicines.
  • Pharmacists consult with physicians and other health-care practitioners on drug selection, dosage, interactions and potential side effects.
  • Pharmacists are licensed to dispense prescribed medicines, and they advise patients on how to correctly use and benefit from their medications.
  • Pharmacists help people get well and maintain their health through their expertise in monitoring drug therapy, knowledge of drug products, and providing drug information.
  • Pharmacists are trained and considered expert in the composition of drugs and, when necessary, may compound medicines, mixing chemical ingredients to form powders, tablets, capsules, ointments or solutions.
  • Pharmacists play an invaluable role among health care professionals and the community at large.
  • Pharmacists must have a Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) degree.
  • Pharmacists must understand the clinical effects and composition of drugs, interactions among medications, dosages to use, and any potential side effects.
  • Pharmacists have become more involved in advising patients and making decisions about drug therapy.
  • Pharmacists often maintain patient medication profiles, and advise physicians on the proper selection and use of medicines.
  • Pharmacists supply and advise people on the use of non-prescription medicines.
  • Pharmacists work as consultants to the medical team in hospitals, nursing homes, and other health care facilities.
  • Pharmacists are health professionals who practice the art and science of pharmacy.
  • Pharmacists are in great demand across the country and this demand will continue into the future.
  • Pharmacist is the most accessible and most trusted health professional.


Pharmacist Code of Ethics:

A pharmacist respects the covenantal relationship between the patient and pharmacist.

A pharmacist promotes the good of every patient in a caring, compassionate, and confidential manner.

A pharmacist respects the autonomy and dignity of each patient.

A pharmacist acts with honesty and integrity in professional relationships.

A pharmacist maintains professional competence.

A pharmacist respects the values and abilities of colleagues and other health professionals.

A pharmacist serves individual, community, and societal needs.

A pharmacist seeks justice in the distribution of health resources.


Oath of a Pharmacist

At this time, I vow to devote my professional life to the service of all humankind through the profession of pharmacy.

I will consider the welfare of humanityand relief of human suffering my primary concerns.

I will apply my knowledge, experience, and skills to the best of my ability to assure optimal drug therapy outcomes for the patients I serve.

I will keep abreast of developments and maintain professional competency in my profession of pharmacy. I will maintain the highest principles of moral, ethical and legal conduct.

I will embrace and advocate change in the profession of pharmacy that improves patient care.

I take these vows voluntarily with the full realization of the responsibility with which I am entrusted by the public.


So remember all of these things and feel free to ask if you have any questions at all about medications that you may be taking. We’re here to serve you and value your trust.