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Antibiotics are prescribed for many bacterial infections. Leaving a bacterial infection untreated can be painful and can have serious consequences. Bacteria can quickly spread from the infection site to other areas of the body when left untreated. HealthTap doctors are available 24/7 to diagnose and treat bacterial infections like UTI, sinusitis, cellulitis, and more.
Antibiotics are not available over the counter, you must see a doctor to get a diagnosis of a bacterial infection and a prescription for an appropriate antibiotic. The good news is that if you have a medical condition that requires antibiotics, we can help! HealthTap doctors can conduct a virtual visit, order tests, and, if necessary, prescribe you antibiotics — all without you having to leave the comfort of your home.*
Cofounder and Chief Medical Officer, HealthTap
Antibiotic treatment is generally for 1 to 2 weeks, though the duration of treatment depends on the type of infection. You should take antibiotics at the recommended dosage; even if you're feeling better, it is important to continue to take the antibiotics until they are gone.
Antibiotics start working right away, and symptoms may begin to subside as early as a few hours after the first dose. Consult with your doctor if your infection is getting worse, or if it does not start to get better within 2 days.
Antibiotics have minimal side-effects in general, the most common being upset stomach — taking antibiotics with food can help prevent this. Occasionally, an antibiotic may trigger an allergic reaction, so be sure to tell your doctor about any allergies you have. Your doctor will advise you of any unique side-effects of the specific antibiotic prescribed and how best to avoid them.
Over time, bacteria may develop resistance to the antibiotic, which makes it less effective at eradicating an infection. Your doctor will prescribe an antibiotic that they expect will be effective for your infection. Antibiotic resistance increases when the antibiotic is used too often, and when people do not take the antibiotic for the full duration of the prescription. It's important to continue taking the antibiotic for the complete duration of recommended treatment.
Humans should not take any antibiotic, or any prescription medication, unless it is prescribed to them by a licensed medical professional. Antibiotics prescribed for or available for animals including fish and birds are not suitable for humans — they may be different formulations that were not tested on humans, and often come in higher and more dangerous dosages.
The two most common topical antibiotics are Polysporin (bacitracin/polymyxin B) and Neosporin (neomycin/bacitracin/polymyxin B). These creams and ointments help prevent bacterial infections and are intended for use on cuts and superficial skin infections.
Antibiotics like amoxicillin are not available without first seeing a doctor; there are no over the counter antibiotics. However, you can see a HealthTap doctor online 24/7, and if your doctor diagnoses a bacterial infection, they will send your online prescription for an antibiotic to your pharmacy. The following are antibiotics commonly prescribed online for bacterial infections:
Amoxicillin a penicillin derived antibiotic and is prescribed for a variety of bacterial infections such as UTI, tooth infections, chest infections (like pneumonia), ear infections in children.
Azithromycin is used to treat many different types of infections caused by bacteria, such as respiratory infections, skin infections, ear infections, eye infections, and sexually transmitted diseases.
Amoxicillin and clavulanate potassium is a combination prescription antibiotic. Amoxicillin is a penicillin antibiotic that fights bacteria in the body. Clavulanate potassium is a beta-lactamase inhibitor that helps prevent certain bacteria from becoming resistant to amoxicillin.
Clindamycin is used to treat infections of the lungs, skin, blood, female reproductive organs, and internal organs. It works by slowing or stopping the growth of bacteria.
Cefalexin belongs to a group of antibiotics called cephalosporins. It's used to treat bacterial infections, such as pneumonia and other chest infections, skin infections and urinary tract infections (UTIs).
Ciprofloxacin belongs to a class of drugs called quinolone antibiotics. It is used to treat serious infections, or infections when other antibiotics have not worked.
Sulfamethoxazole and trimethoprim is a combination of two antibiotics used to treat a wide variety of bacterial infections (such as middle ear, urine, respiratory, and intestinal infections). It is also used to prevent and treat a certain type of pneumonia (pneumocystis-type).
Metronidazole is an antibiotic that is used to treat bacterial infections of the vagina, stomach, liver, skin, joints, brain and spinal cord, lungs, heart, or bloodstream. Metronidazole is also used to treat trichomoniasis, a sexually transmitted disease caused by a parasite.
Levofloxacin is a fluoroquinolone antibiotic. It works by blocking the chemicals bacteria need to reproduce and repair themselves. Levofloxacin treats a variety of bacterial infections and is also used to treat people who have been exposed to anthrax or certain types of plague.
Doxycycline is used to treat many different bacterial infections, such as acne, urinary tract infections, intestinal infections, respiratory infections, eye infections, gonorrhea, chlamydia, syphilis, periodontitis (gum disease), and others.
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Cofounder and Chief Medical Officer, HealthTap
Dr. Rutledge is a double-board certified physician who practiced and taught medicine for more than 25 years. He attended medical school at McGill University in Montreal, then completed residency training in Internal Medicine at UCSD, and was certified by the boards of Internal Medicine and Emergency Medicine. He earned a PhD in medical computer science from Stanford, was an NIH-funded researcher, and served on clinical and teaching faculty at Harvard, Stanford, and UCSD medical schools. Before co-founding HealthTap, he created the first consumer health website and PHR at Healtheon/WebMD, was SVP of clinical transformation at First Consulting Group, CMIO at San Mateo Medical Center, and EVP, Product Development and Chief Medical Officer at Epocrates.