Why You Always Need to Finish Antibiotics
You’re finally feeling better after an illness serious enough to require antibiotics instead of over-the-counter (OTC) medication, but you still have a few pills left in the pack prescribed by your provider. It’s something most people have experienced at least once over the course of their lives, and it’s certainly tempting to skip out on those last few doses – after all, you are feeling better. Unfortunately, as many patients discover, this plan can backfire and the illness can come roaring back.
There’s a reason why you receive numerous warnings to complete the full course of prescribed antibiotics. Your physician, the pharmacist and the pill pack or bottle itself all warn against stopping the medication before the course of antibiotics is complete. At Pacific Family Practice, we understand that finally feeling like yourself again signals that you may no longer be sick, but this doesn’t mean that your care is complete. There are clear reasons why patients need to complete their antibiotic prescription.
What happens if I stop taking antibiotics before I finish them?
When you receive a prescription, it provides the exact number of pills needed and how these pills should be taken to effectively treat your condition. There aren’t any extra pills – each prescription is a full, complete treatment needed to kill the disease-causing bacteria in your system. When you stop treatment before it’s finished, you risk two things: your illness returning and building up a resistance to antibiotics.
Having your illness return is inconvenient for several reasons. The first reason is that your body is likely still weak from the first round of illness and you may feel worse than you did originally. The second is that you will may have to take even more time away from your normal routine, which means more missed work, school or other responsibilities.
Antibiotic resistance is very serious and something all patients need to consider before they skip finishing a prescription. When antibiotics are not taken properly, your body can develop a resistance to them which makes future treatments less effective. Conversely, antibiotic resistance is also caused when antibiotics are taken too frequently.
Can I ever stop taking my antibiotics before I finish them?
If you believe that you no longer need to finish your antibiotic prescription, please contact your Pacific Family Practice provider before you stop taking the medication. Certain prescriptions contain a larger number of pills than others, so your doctor may determine that you do not need to finish a pack or bottle if you have been taking the medication for longer than required. Again, this decision must be made by your provider, not by your own judgement of how healthy you are.