The discovery of the antibiotic penicillin in the 1920s made a big impact on human history. Not only did it lead to a cure for bacterial infections that were once deadly, but it also led a big interest in finding new antibiotics. Today many different types of antibiotics are available, and they fight infection in several ways.
Antibiotics Seek Out Bacterial Cells
Have you ever wondered how antibiotics kill invading bacteria, while leaving human cells alone? Although there are similarities between bacteria and human cells, there are many differences as well. Antibiotics work by affecting things that bacterial cells have but human cells don’t.
For example, human cells do not have cell walls, while many types of bacteria do. The antibiotic penicillin works by keeping a bacterium from building a cell wall. Bacteria and human cells also differ in the structure of their cell membranes and the machinery they use to build proteins or copy DNA. Some antibiotics dissolve the membrane of just bacterial cells. Others affect protein-building or DNA-copying machinery that is specific to bacteria.
Antibiotics Harm Friendly Bacteria
When you take an antibiotic, it enters your bloodstream and travels through your body, killing bacteria but not human cells. There are few differences, however, between harmful and friendly bacteria. Antibiotics kill not only the bad bacteria making you sick, but also your resident friendly bacteria.
One common cause of opportunistic infection is clostridium difficile (klos-TRID-e-uhm dif-uh-SEEL). Like many opportunistic bacteria, C. difficile live in the environment and do not normally harm healthy people. However, certain groups of people, like older adults who have been on antibiotics for a long time, are vulnerable. When antibiotics kill too many friendly bacteria in the intestine, C. difficile multiplies and produces toxins that make the person sick with symptoms like fever, nausea, diarrhea, and inflammation.
Here are 10 things to watch for while taking antibiotics.
Diarrhea is a common adverse effect of antibiotic use. Antibiotics can upset the balance of good and bad bacteria in your gut by killing the good microbes along with infection-causing bacteria. This leads to antibiotic-associated diarrhea causing watery stools.
A 2012 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association concludes that probiotic use is effective in the prevention and treatment of antibiotic-associated diarrhea.
To prevent or treat this side effect of antibiotics, add some probiotic yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, to your diet.
Nausea and Vomiting
While taking antibiotics like penicillin, many people experience nausea and vomiting.
These symptoms occur when antibiotics kill off some of the good bacteria living in your intestine. This leads to problems like bloating, nausea and vomiting, which are usually mild and transient.
If you have nausea from an antibiotic treatment, you can eat some probiotic yogurt and drink ginger tea.
Vaginal Yeast Infections
Candida and other germs living inside the vagina are harmless when present in a natural balance. However, antibiotics used to treat a variety of infections may change the natural balance of these bacteria and increase the number of candida yeast, which may lead to a vaginal yeast infection.
Symptoms of a yeast infection include a thick, white vaginal discharge as well as burning and itching.
Some people are allergic to antibiotics like penicillin and cephalosporins. The allergic reactions may include symptoms like hives, skin rashes, itching, swelling, shortness of breath, wheezing, runny nose, fever and anaphylaxis.
Minimize unnecessary antibiotic use and steer clear of the antibiotics that you are allergic to. Report any adverse reactions to your doctor so that a different antibiotic can be prescribed when needed.
More than 80 percent of the body’s immunity is built in the intestinal tract with the help of friendly bacteria that reside there. However, antibiotics indiscriminately kill bacteria, both good and bad.
Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine note that the prolonged use of antibiotics may effectively diminish the efficiency of the body’s immune system, thus increasing the risk of developing secondary bacterial infections.
Include foods in your diet that are rich in antibiotic properties, such as ginger, yogurt,oregano, grapefruit, turmeric and garlic.
Harm Kidney Function
Certain antibiotics can be harmful for your kidneys.
As kidneys remove waste products and help balance water, salt and other minerals in your blood, even slight damage to them can cause severe problems.
If you have an existing kidney problem, make sure your doctor knows your medical history, so that the dose of antibiotics can be adjusted according to your kidney’s function level.
Also, when taking antibiotics, if you notice changes in your urination, swelling in your legs and feet, and nausea and vomiting, consult your doctor.
Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)
Antibiotics used to treat some illnesses may also cause a urinary tract infection (UTI), especially in children. While fighting infection, they often wipe out beneficial bacteria living near the urethra and make it easier for dangerous bacteria to grow in the urinary tract and bladder.
UTIs may be prevented by taking steps to maintain or replace helpful bacteria and by practicing good personal hygiene.
Inner Ear Problems
All members of the aminoglycoside antibiotic family can cause ototoxicity if they enter the inner ear. The drug may enter through the blood system or via diffusion from the middle ear into the inner ear.
A person is at higher risk for aminoglycoside antibiotic-induced ototoxicity when also taking ototoxic drugs.
A few symptoms of ototoxicity include partial or profound hearing loss, vertigo and tinnitus, which can be temporary or permanent.
Your doctor may suggest other contraception methods, such as the progestogen injection, an intrauterine device or an intrauterine system.
• Antibiotic side effects differ from patient to patient as well as from antibiotic to antibiotic.
• Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration. If needed, use rehydrating beverages that are high in electrolytes.
• Avoid alcohol and caffeine.
• Avoid eating spicy food. Switch to a more bland diet when you are taking antibiotics.
• Do not take any antibiotics without a prescription from your doctor.
• Never take leftover antibiotics. They may not be the correct antibiotic for your specific illness contracted at a later date. So, discard any remaining antibiotics.
• Do not pressurize your doctor to give you antibiotics for a speedy recovery. Instead, ask about methods to alleviate your symptoms.