Antibiotics are frequently used to treat bacterial infections. But is getting over the counter antibiotics a possibility? Many people always ask if antibiotics can be bought at over the counter. This article will look at what antibiotics are, uses of antibiotics, when to use antibiotics and getting antibiotics over the counter.
What are antibiotics?
Antibiotics are powerful medications that treat certain infections and can save lives when used properly. They either stop bacteria from reproducing or destroy them.
Before bacteria can multiply and cause symptoms, the immune system can typically kill them. White blood cells (WBCs) attack harmful bacteria — even if symptoms occur, the immune system can usually cope and fend off the infection.
However, sometimes the number of harmful bacteria is excessive, and the immune system cannot clear them all. Antibiotics are useful in this scenario.
The first antibiotic was penicillin. Penicillin-based antibiotics, such as ampicillin, amoxicillin, and penicillin G, are still available to treat a variety of infections and have been in use for many years.
Several types of modern antibiotics are available, and they are usually only available with a prescription in every country. Topical antibiotics are available in over-the-counter (OTC) creams and ointments.
Antibiotics Available Over the Counter
Some topical antibiotics can be purchased as over-the-counter (OTC) medicines.
However, it is always recommended that you consult a medical expert before purchasing and using any medication.
Topical antibiotics are used to treat skin wounds, scrapes, scratches, and minor burns.
They are available in ointment, cream, spray, or powder forms and are used to prevent infection in topical skin ailments.
Some over-the-counter topical antibiotics include:
- Bacitracin (Neosporin)
- Polymyxin (Polysporin)
- Neomycin (Neosporin Plus Pain Relief)
- Benzoyl peroxide (Proactiv)
Using topical antibiotics when they are not required can do more damage than good and leave your skin overly irritated.
This is why it is essential to use any antibiotics after consulting with a medical professional, even if they are available over-the-counter.
Commonly Prescribed Antibiotics
There are hundreds of types of antibiotics, each with different indications for treatment, and they are each available under varying brand names as well.
Each antibiotic is designed to be effective against specific bacteria, which is why your medical provider will need to determine your ailment to prescribe the most appropriate antibiotic for you.
Antibiotics are usually specific for the type of bacteria being treated and, in general, cannot be interchanged from one bacterial infection to another.
However, some antibiotics are prescribed more often than others as they may be able to effectively fight multiple types of bacteria at once.
Healthcare providers in the US prescribe over 201 million antibiotic prescriptions annually.
Some common antibiotics prescribed include:
This penicillin-type antibiotic fights bacteria and can be prescribed alongside other medications and antibiotics to treat an infection.
This antibiotic is sometimes given before surgery to help prevent infections. It is prescribed for more serious bacterial infections such as pneumonia or meningitis.
This antibiotic belongs to a group of drugs called fluoroquinolones and is used to treat many bacterial infections, including bronchitis and respiratory infections.
Due to its multiple side effects, including headaches, numbness, and effects on mental health, it is prescribed usually only when no other alternative is available.
This antibiotic is most often prescribed to treat digestive and vaginal bacterial infections.
It can also be used to treat sexually transmitted diseases (STIs) that are caused by a parasite, and a popular brand name for metronidazole is Flagyl.
This antibiotic stops bacteria’s growth and is quite commonly used to treat rare or severe infections.
This is a cephalosporin antibiotic used to treat infections that are caused by bacteria, such as UTIs, ear infections, and bone infections.
It is widely prescribed for adults and children alike.
Doxycycline is used to treat many ailments, including bacterial pneumonia, acne, chlamydia, Lyme disease, cholera, and syphilis.
This antibiotic is sometimes known to have anti-inflammatory properties as well.
This makes it a useful drug in dermatology infection prevention as well.
There exist many more antibiotics, and you should ask your healthcare provider for a comprehensive list of antibiotics that are available to you and for your illness.
When To Use Antibiotics
Antibiotics are specific for the type of bacteria being treated and, in general, cannot be interchanged from one infection to another. When antibiotics are used correctly, they are usually safe with few side effects. Health care providers are able to assess each patient individually to determine the correct antibiotic, dose and length of treatment.
However, as with most drugs, antibiotics can lead to side effects that may range from being a nuisance to serious or life-threatening. In infants and the elderly, in patients with kidney or liver disease, in pregnant or breastfeeding women, and in many other patient groups, antibiotic doses may need to be adjusted based upon the individual patient. Drug interactions can also be common with antibiotics.
What Antibiotics Are Used For
Do not share your antibiotic or take antibiotics medication that was prescribed for someone else.
It is also important not to save an antibiotic to use the next time you get sick, as it may not be the right medication for your illness each time.
Some common illnesses or infections that antibiotics can treat include:
- Bacterial pneumonia
- Strep throat
- Conjunctivitis (Pink eye)
- Otitis media (Ear infection)
- Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs)
- Dental infections and gum disease
- Skin or soft tissue infection
- Sinus infections
- Bladder and kidney infections
- Traveler’s diarrhea
- Upper respiratory tract infection
- Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)
- Vaginal infections (bacterial vaginosis)