Antibiotics are a class of drugs that are used to treat bacterial infections. These drugs are effective in killing bacteria or stopping them from multiplying. They have revolutionized modern medicine by allowing us to successfully treat a wide range of bacterial infections. However, when it comes to taking antibiotics, it’s essential to follow the doctor’s instructions carefully. Taking antibiotics too close together can have serious consequences.
What happens if you take antibiotics too close together?
Antibiotics are prescribed for a specific period of time, often ranging from 7 to 14 days. This duration varies depending on the type of bacterial infection, the age, weight, and overall health of the patient. When a patient misses a dose or takes two doses close together, the concentration of the drug in their body can become too high.
Taking antibiotics too close together can lead to antibiotic overdose, which can cause severe side effects. Antibiotic overdose can lead to gastro-intestinal problems like nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Patients may also experience allergic reactions that can manifest as a rash, hives, or difficulty breathing. The most severe side effects of antibiotic overdose are seizures, kidney damage, and liver damage.
Even if an antibiotic overdose doesn’t occur, taking antibiotics too close together can hinder your recovery from a bacterial infection. When antibiotics fail to eradicate bacteria, the bacteria’s resistance to the drugs increases.
Overuse of antibiotics, such as taking them too close together, can increase the resistance rate of bacteria. This is why doctors advise against indiscriminate use of antibiotics. Taking antibiotics close together puts you at risk of bacterial resistance, which means that even the strongest of antibiotics may fail to treat you.
This leads to persistent infections and in some cases, the need for multiple antibiotic courses to treat a single infection. This increases your chances of contracting antibiotic-resistant bacteria or superbugs that don’t respond to the antibiotics commonly prescribed for bacterial infections. Antibiotic-resistant superbugs are a severe public health crisis that poses a significant threat worldwide.
Impact on the Gut Flora
Antibiotics can also have an impact on the body’s natural gut flora, which is home to trillions of beneficial bacteria that aid digestion, boost immunity, and protect against harmful bacteria. Taking antibiotics close together can kill off these beneficial bacteria, leaving you susceptible to gastrointestinal infections like Clostridium difficile (C.diff).
C.diff is a bacterium that causes severe diarrhea and colon inflammation. The bacterium is commonly found in hospitals and long-term care facilities, where it spreads from person to person through contaminated surfaces and hands. When antibiotics kill off the beneficial bacteria that keep C.diff in check, it can proliferate uncontrollably.
Clostridium difficile infections are becoming increasingly common, especially in healthcare settings, where overcrowding, understaffing, and overworked healthcare workers are leading to the spread of infections.
To avoid the unintended consequences of taking antibiotics too close together, there are several preventive measures you can take. They include:
1. Stick to the Prescribed Dosage
Your doctor will prescribe antibiotics and instruct you on how to take them. Follow the instructions closely and do not take more than the prescribed dosage. Even if you miss a dose, don’t double up on it. Instead, take the next dose as prescribed.
2. Complete the Course
Depending on the bacterial infection, you may be required to take antibiotics for up to two weeks. Do not stop taking the medication until the course is complete, even if your symptoms have improved significantly. Finishing the course ensures that all the bacteria are killed or stopped from reproducing, reducing the risk of bacterial resistance.
3. Never Share Antibiotics
Sharing antibiotics with friends or family members is a risky practice. Everyone’s body is unique, and the dosage that works for you may not work for someone else. Antibiotics should only be taken after a specific diagnosis and prescription from a qualified physician.
4. Attend Follow-Up Appointments
Attend follow-up appointments with your physician to monitor your progress and check if the antibiotics are working. If they’re not working, the doctor may prescribe a different antibiotic for you. Follow-up appointments also help detect any potential side effects of the medication.
Antibiotics are lifesaving drugs that have revolutionized medicine. However, they should be used with caution. Taking antibiotics too close together can have severe consequences, leading to antibiotic overdose, antibiotic resistance, and gastrointestinal infections.
To avoid these risks, stick to the prescribed dosage and course, never share antibiotics, and attend follow-up appointments with your physician. In doing so, you can optimize the benefits of antibiotics while minimizing the risks.