Q: I know it’s better not to take antibiotics unnecessarily. So if I get a prescription, shouldn’t I stop taking the pills when I feel better instead of finishing the whole pack?
A: Antibiotics don’t work that way. They’re not designed to make you feel better, although that’s a darn nice side effect. Antibiotics are designed to kill or incapacitate the enemy. First, ask your doc whether the antibiotic is necessary—that is, do you truly have a bacterial infection? If the answer is yes, take the full prescription, even if you feel better in two or three days (and yes, the pills may last for 10 to 14 days) to make sure you’ve killed all of the enemy.
If you take the medication for only half its course, you may just weaken the remaining bacteria without finishing them off completely. And weakened bacteria often come back stronger than before, worsen the infection and even spread it deeper into your body—which could result in a greater threat to your cardiovascular and other systems than the initial infection ever would have. So take the whole course of antibiotics and you’re more likely to land the knockout punch.
By the way, antibiotics can kill not only the bad bacteria that’s making you sick but also the good bacteria that keeps your immune and digestive systems humming. So add a probiotic (we like Culturelle and Digestive Advantage).