Antibiotics

Antibiotics are drugs used to treat infections caused by bacteria. You may also get infections due to, for example, viruses or fungi, but then antibiotics will not work. There are several different types of antibiotics.

In daily speech, antibiotics are often called penicillin. But penicillin is just one of several groups of antibiotics, although it is the most widely used group.

Affects different types of bacteria

There are many different types of bacteria. Most antibiotics affect only some of these bacteria, while others affect many. Antibiotics that affect many different bacteria have a broad spectrum, while antibiotics that affect only a few bacteria have a narrow spectrum.

Broad-spectrum antibiotics also affect the beneficial bacteria you normally have in your body, for example in the gut. Therefore, it is better to use antibiotics with a narrow spectrum as often as possible, which only kill the bacteria that cause the disease.

Resistant bacteria survive antibiotic therapy

Excessive use of antibiotics has led some bacteria to become resistant, resistant, to one or more types of antibiotics. Resistance is a property of the bacteria. Thus, a person treated with antibiotics cannot become resistant.

For many years, new antibiotics were developed that allowed the resistant bacteria to be treated. Now many countries have problems with bacteria that are resistant to almost all antibiotics. Nor do so many new antibiotics develop. So far in USA we have not had such major problems with resistance, but resistant bacteria are also found here. Increased antibiotic resistance may make certain infections difficult to treat or cannot be treated at all in the future.

The risk of spreading resistant bacteria is greatest in environments where many antibiotics are used and where there are many diseases. This is especially true in hospitals, but also to a certain extent in pre-schools and elderly homes.

Infecting a resistant bacterium is usually not dangerous for a healthy person. However, for someone who is seriously ill or has been operated on it can be dangerous to get an infection that is difficult to treat.

Here you can read more about resistance and how you can help slow down the spread of resistant bacteria.

You don’t always need antibiotics

An important thing for a doctor to decide is whether an infection needs to be treated with antibiotics at all. Many infections manage the body to fight itself, without antibiotics.

Some infections should be treated, for example if it is a serious infection or if there is a risk of sequelae. You should not be afraid to take antibiotics if you really need it. But then it is very important that you take the whole course even if you feel well in the past.

The right kind of antibiotic

The most important thing when the doctor chooses antibiotics is that it has an effect on the particular bacterium that is causing your infection. In the first place, the doctor chooses antibiotics with a narrow spectrum. But you may need broad-spectrum antibiotics if you are very ill or if it is not clear which bacteria are causing the infection. You may even need several different antibiotics at the same time.

Other things that the doctor must consider are the infection. For example, not all antibiotics pass to the brain and therefore cannot be used to treat meningitis.

The doctor’s choice is also influenced by other things. It may be that you have some illness that makes you tolerate some antibiotics worse than others. You may be treated with other medicines that may affect the effects of some antibiotics. Your age and the risk of side effects can also affect your choice.

Why don’t I always recover from antibiotics?

The most common reason for not getting well despite an antibiotic regimen is that the diagnosis is incorrect, that is, the infection is not due to bacteria, but to viruses.

There are also other reasons why you may not be well:

  • You have been given the wrong kind of antibiotics.
  • You have received too low a dose.
  • You have been treated for a short time.
  • Not enough antibiotics have been taken up from the gut.

Some common antibiotic groups

There are different groups of antibiotics that act in different ways and on different bacteria:

  • penicillins
  • cephalosporins
  • tetracyclines
  • Macrolides
  • quinolones
  • Trimethoprim and sulfonamides.

Penicillins

Penicillins are the type of antibiotic most commonly used. The group includes several different active topics. The most common is penicillin V, which is also called phenoxymethylpenicillin. Penicillin V has a narrow spectrum, which means it has effects on a few bacterial species. Penicillin V is primarily used in, for example, throat flux, sinusitis, ear inflammation, pneumonia and larynx.

Another penicillin is amoxicillin. Unlike penicillin V, amoxicillin acts on several different bacterial species. In some drugs, amoxicillin is combined with clavulanic acid, which protects amoxicillin from being destroyed by certain bacteria.

Flucloxacillin is another penicillin and is often used in skin infections. Other penicillins can be used, for example, in urinary tract infection.

Important

Do not use penicillin if you know you are allergic to these medicines. Since penicillins are closely related to cephalosporins, you should not use cephalosporins if you are allergic to penicillin.

Side effects

Antibiotics reduce the number of bacteria in the body, both those that cause disease and others that are beneficial. Reduced amount of beneficial gut bacteria can cause stomach upset with loose stools.

Penicillins can make you feel sick and vomit.

When you are treated for an infection, you may get a rash. This type of rash is often mild and may be due to the infection or may be a side effect of the drug. However, if you develop a hives, strong itching, fever or facial swelling, you should stop treatment and consult a doctor. The same goes for long-term or severe diarrhea.

Examples of penicillins that you take by mouth

Medicines containing amoxicillin:

  • Amimox
  • amoxicillin
  • Imacillin.

Medicines containing phenoxymethylpenicillin:

  • Avopenin
  • phenoxymethylpenicillin
  • Kåvepenin and Kåvepenin Fruit
  • Tikacillin.

Medicines containing amoxicillin and clavulanic acid:

  • Amoxicillin/Clavulanic acid
  • Bioclavid
  • Klaximol
  • Augmentin.

Medicines containing flucloxacillin:

  • flucloxacillin
  • flucloxacillin
  • Heracillin.

Medicines containing pivmecillinam:

  • Penomax
  • Selexid.

Tetracyclines

Tetracyclines act on a wide variety of bacteria. Tetracyclines are used, among other things, in certain types of pneumonia, genital infections or sinusitis when regular penicillin has not helped, or if you are allergic to regular penicillin. Some tetracyclines can also be used to treat acne.

Important

Tetracyclines should not be given to children under the age of eight as the active substance is absorbed by the growing skeleton and may discolor tooth enamel.

When you take tetracyclines there is a risk of getting skin reactions if you are exposed to strong sunlight. Therefore, you should usually avoid sun and tanning beds two to five days after you complete the course, unless the doctor has said otherwise.

Side effects

Antibiotics reduce the number of bacteria in the body, both those that cause disease and others that are beneficial. Reduced amount of beneficial gut bacteria can cause stomach upset with loose stools. Reduced amount of beneficial bacteria in the abdomen can cause fungal infection of the abdomen in women.

Tetracyclines can make you feel sick and vomit.

When you are treated for an infection, you may get a rash. This type of rash is often mild and may be due to the infection or may be a side effect of the drug. However, if you develop a hives, strong itching, fever or facial swelling, you should stop treatment and consult a doctor. The same goes for long-term or severe diarrhea.

Examples of tetracyclines

Medicines containing doxycycline:

  • doxycycline
  • Doxyferm
  • Oracea
  • Vibranord.

Medicines containing tetracycline:

  • Tetracycline Meda.

Medicines containing lymecycline:

  • Lymecycline
  • Lymelysal
  • Tetralysal.

Macrolides

Macrolides affect largely the same bacteria as penicillins, but are mainly used in certain infections caused by the bacterium mycoplasma, such as pneumonia. Sometimes macrolides are used instead of penicillin in penicillin allergy.

Side effects

Antibiotics reduce the number of bacteria in the body, both those that cause disease and others that are beneficial. Reduced amount of beneficial gut bacteria can cause stomach upset with loose stools.

Macrolides can cause you to feel sick, vomit and get stomach upset.

When you are treated for an infection, you may get a rash. This type of rash is often mild and may be due to the infection or may be a side effect of the drug. However, if you develop a hives, strong itching, fever or facial swelling, you should stop treatment and consult a doctor. The same goes for long-term or severe diarrhea.

Examples of macrolides that you take by mouth

Medicines containing azithromycin:

  • Azithromycin
  • Zithromax.

Medicines containing erythromycin:

  • Abboticin Novum
  • Ery-Max.

Medicines containing clarithromycin:

  • Clarithromycin
  • Klacid.

Medicines containing roxithromycin:

  • Roximstad
  • Surlid.

Quinolones

Quinolones are so-called broad-spectrum antibiotics, which means they act on many different types of bacteria.

Quinolones are used in severe urinary tract infection, gonorrhea, prostate infection and severe intestinal infection. They can also be used in sepsis, also known as blood poisoning, and in certain respiratory tract infections or prevention of meningitis.

Important

Quinolones should not be used by children and adolescents except in exceptional cases. The drugs can cause joint problems.

Side effects

Antibiotics reduce the number of bacteria in the body, both those that cause disease and others that are beneficial. Reduced amount of beneficial gut bacteria can cause stomach upset with loose stools. Reduced amount of beneficial bacteria in the abdomen can cause fungal infection of the abdomen in women.

Quinones can make you feel sick and vomit.

When you are treated for an infection, you may get a rash. This type of rash is often mild and may be due to the infection or may be a side effect of the drug. However, if you develop a hives, strong itching, fever or facial swelling, you should stop treatment and consult a doctor. The same goes for long-term or severe diarrhea.

Examples of quinolones

Medicines containing ciprofloxacin:

  • ciprofloxacin
  • Ciproxin.

Medicines containing levofloxacin:

  • levofloxacin
  • Tavanic.

Medicines containing moxifloxacin:

  • Avelox
  • Moxifloxacin.

Medicines containing norfloxacin:

  • Norfloxacin.

Trimethoprim and sulfonamides

Trimethoprim is available alone and in combination with sulfonamides, sometimes called sulfa.

Trimethoprim is used in uncomplicated urinary tract infection.

Trimetorim and sulfonamides in combination are primarily used for more severe urinary tract infections, but can also be used in some cases for respiratory tract infections.

Side effects

Antibiotics reduce the number of bacteria in the body, both those that cause disease and others that are beneficial. Reduced amount of beneficial gut bacteria can cause stomach upset with loose stools. Reduced amount of beneficial bacteria in the abdomen can cause fungal infection of the abdomen in women.

The drugs can make you feel sick and vomit.

You can have mild skin reactions. If you develop a rash, itching or high fever, you should immediately stop treatment and contact your health care provider because you may have severe breathing problems. Even in the case of prolonged or severe diarrhea, you should contact your health care provider.

Examples of medicines

Medicines containing trimethoprim only:

  • Idotrim
  • Trimethoprim Meda.

Medicines containing trimethoprim and sulfonamide:

  • Bactrim and Bactrim forte
  • Eusaprim and Eusaprim forte.

Other antibiotics

There are additional antibiotics that are sometimes used. For example:

  • Medicines containing the active substance clindamycin, such as Dalacin. The drug can be used for, for example, throat flux, infections of the skin and vagina and in acne.
  • Medicines containing nitrofurantoin, such as furadantine. The drug is used in urinary tract infection.
  • Medicines containing metronidazole, such as Flagyl. The drug can be used in, for example, infections of the stomach and abdomen.

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