Do You Really Need To Finish Your Antibiotics?

By Dr. Dave Hnida

(CBS4) -How many times have you heard or been told “Make sure you finish all of your antibiotics!”. Well, that stern admonition may be a little outdated, if not frankly wrong.

A new report in the British Medical Journal says there is little factual, scientific evidence, in many cases, that quitting an Rx early will lead to an increase in resistance or cause your infection to come back with a vengeance.

In other words, the question really become is it okay to get off of your medication as soon as you feel better, and whether continuing onward is unnecessary?

Plus, does taking a drug when you are doing well possibly be something that is one thing that actually increases resistance? ) Not to mention side effects).

Much of this opinion is based on a little history, and that history is little. Back in the early days of antibiotics, 1941 to be exact, one patient being treated for an infection got worse when he stopped his antibiotics. One guy. One case. One situation. And that’s when the thinking began that a longer course of medication is a better course.

pills Do You Really Need To Finish Your Antibiotics?

(credit: CBS)

But many of the accepted timeframes are a little arbitrary. For example, ten days of penicillin has been the standard for years when it comes to treating strep throat. But is that amount really needed?

The authors of the Journal report offer these thoughts on what is probably all that’s necessary in most cases of common infections:

Strep throat: as little as 3 days, not 10.

Ear infections: 5 days, not 10.

Pneumonia: 5 days, not 10-14.

Skin infections: 5 days, not 14.

Now certainly there are situations where a longer course of antibiotics is a good idea, such as repeated urinary tract infections, stubborn ear infections, or serious illnesses.

But overall, it looks like there may be a change in how we prescribe when it comes to everyday bugs.

What does this mean to you?

Most importantly, you should finish your antibiotics as prescribed. (But certainly you can, and should ask about the length of treatment).

The onus of change is really on those of us who pull out the prescription pad and scribble out the number of pills or ounces of liquid to be taken.

We need to stay up to date, and start thinking about the reasons why we are giving you a certain amount of medication. And importantly, whether you really need that medication in the first place.

Dr. Dave Hnida is CBS4’s Medical Editor. He blogs about the latest studies and trends in the health world. Read his latest blog entries, check out his bio or follow him on Twitter @drdavehnida

 

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