What’s an antibiotic?

Antibiotics are medications used to fight infections caused by bacteria. They’re also called antibacterials. They treat infections by killing or decreasing the growth of bacteria.

The first modern-day antibiotic was used in 1936. Before antibiotics, 30 percentTrusted Source of all deaths were caused by bacterial infections. Thanks to antibiotics, previously fatal infections are curable.

Today, antibiotics are still powerful, life-saving medications for people with certain serious infections. They can also prevent less-serious infections from becoming serious.

There are many classes of antibiotics. Certain types of antibiotics work best for specific types of bacterial infections.

Antibiotics come in many forms, including:

  • tablets
  • capsules
  • liquids
  • creams
  • ointments

Most antibiotics are only available with a prescription from your doctor. Some antibiotic creams and ointments are available over the counter.

How do antibiotics work against bacteria?

Antibiotics fight bacterial infections either by killing bacteria or slowing and suspending its growth. They do this by:

  • attacking the wall or coating surrounding bacteria
  • interfering with bacteria reproduction
  • blocking protein production in bacteria

How long do antibiotics take to work?

Antibiotics begin to work right after you start taking them. However, you might not feel better for two to three days.

How quickly you get better after antibiotic treatment varies. It also depends on the type of infection you’re treating.

Most antibiotics should be taken for 7 to 14 days. In some cases, shorter treatments work just as well. Your doctor will decide the best length of treatment and correct antibiotic type for you.

Even though you might feel better after a few days of treatment, it’s best to finish the entire antibiotic regimen in order to fully resolve your infection. This can also help prevent antibiotic resistance. Don’t stop your antibiotic early without first talking with your healthcare provider.

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