What Illnesses Require Antibiotic Therapy?

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

Antibiotic therapy is used to treat illnesses caused by bacterial infections. It can sometimes be difficult to tell whether an illness is caused by a bacteria, virus, or microorganism, making it hard to determine whether antibiotic therapy is an appropriate course of treatment. Some of the illnesses that can usually be treated with antibiotics include strep infections, urinary tract infections, some forms of sinus infections, and some skin infections.

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) need to be treated with antibiotics.
Urinary tract infections (UTIs) need to be treated with antibiotics.

Streptococcal infections are a common type of bacteria-caused illness that is usually treated with antibiotic therapy. These infections can manifest in many different ways, including as scarlet fever, which appears as a rash on the body accompanied by a high temperature. Strep throat, which is characterized by an extremely painful sore throat and cold or flu symptoms, is another common type of streptococcal infection. A secondary type of strep infection, called Group B strep, may include bacterial pneumonia and blood infections, and is usually only found in infants, the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems. Both Group A and Group B strep infections can usually be treated with swift antibiotic therapy.

Strep throat is one common illness that requires antibiotic therapy.
Strep throat is one common illness that requires antibiotic therapy.

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are caused by an overgrowth of bacteria in the urinary tract. Symptoms include painful or frequent urination, a hypersensitive feeling in the groin, and fever or cramps. Urinary tract infections need to be treated with antibiotics, since they can cause more severe infections in the kidneys if unchecked. In some patients, UTIs can become chronic conditions that require a daily low dose of antibiotics. This type of regime needs to be carefully supervised by a physician, since daily antibiotic therapy can lead to an eventual intolerance of antibiotics.

Sinus infections may be bacterial or viral in nature, and can be somewhat difficult to treat. While viral sinus infections tend to clear up within a week or two, bacterial infections may linger on without improvement for weeks. Since so many sinus infections are viral in nature, many doctors are reluctant to prescribe antibiotics unless the illness is severe, has lasted several weeks, or does not appear to be clearing up with other remedies.

Skin infections are often caused by a growth of bacteria in the tissue layers of the skin. These are often characterized by red rashes, painful, scaly patches of skin, or pus-filled abscesses. Doctors may need to take a small sample of the infected area to determine the exact cause of the infection. Antibiotic therapy for bacteria-caused skin rashes may include oral medication, or a topical ointment that is spread on the infected area.

Skin infections can typically be treated using antibiotic therapy.
Skin infections can typically be treated using antibiotic therapy.
Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica is passionate about drama and film. She has many other interests, and enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics in her role as a wiseGEEK writer.

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Discussion Comments


@SarahSon-- I agree that it is hard to imagine what our lives would be like without antibiotics. My husband has had antibiotic therapy for pneumonia more than once. This can be life threatening if it isn't treated properly.

I hate to think about how my kids might suffer if they didn't take antibiotics for something like strep throat. Every one of my kids has had this and it can be miserable. As soon as they start on an antibiotic, I know they will begin to feel better.

One thing that is frustrating for me is when I have a viral infection when I think it is really a bacterial infection. I go to the doctor hoping an antibiotic will clear it up and he says there is nothing he can do and it just needs to run its course.


One of my friends had to go the hospital for intravenous antibiotic treatment for Lyme disease. She went through a whole bunch of tests before they figured out she had Lyme disease.

Because it had gone so long without being treated, she had to use the intravenous antibiotics instead of the oral ones. She had to go in for treatments for several weeks to get this cleared up.


@LisaLou-- Yeast infections are one of those side effects that go along with being on antibiotics for any length of time. Another thing I have to worry about is my body building up a resistance to them.

I get frequent urinary tract infections and have taken more than one type of antibiotic to clear this up. Depending on how often I get one, the doctor will use different antibiotics so my body won't quit responding to a certain one.

It is hard for me to imagine what people did before they were able to use antibiotics like this. I can't imagine trying to deal with ongoing symptoms like this and what other kinds of damage it could lead to.

I know it is important to get treatment for my urinary tract infections as soon as possible so it doesn't go into my kidneys. Taking antibiotics is what works faster and more effectively than anything else.


When I was a teenager I used antibiotic therapy to help clear up my acne. I tried a lot of creams and other things but this is the only thing that really worked for me. One thing I have to be careful of when I take antibiotics is getting a yeast infection, but my body usually responds pretty quickly to this type of therapy.

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