What is Antibiotic Therapy?

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  • Written By: wiseGEEK Writer
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 20 October 2019
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Antibiotic therapy sounds like a long-term method for treating illnesses but it doesn’t have to be. If a doctor decides to prescribe antibiotics for strep throat or an ear infection, the person is undergoing antibiotic therapy. Essentially the term refers to use of antibiotics to treat, prevent, or improve illness.

It’s easy to think of common antibiotic therapy examples, like the one above. There is certainly much more consideration that goes into how to effectively choose the right antibiotic to fit the bacteria it’s supposed to kill, and how to determine how long that antibiotic should be prescribed. There’s been much recent study on whether doctors need to prescribe 10-12 days worth of antibiotics for common illnesses like ear infections and strep throat, and some evidence suggests that shorter usage of antibiotics for minor bacterial infections may be just as effective.


One concern with overuse of antibiotics is that it can cause certain bacteria to become resistant to antibiotic strains. This means that physicians are now being encouraged to only prescribe antibiotics when they feel that infection is certainly present. Advocating antibiotic therapy for viruses is a mistake because this can lead to bacteria that are stronger and more likely to resist standard drugs. It should be understand when people head to the doctor for treatment, that contagion with viruses cannot be treated effectively with antibiotics, though in the past some doctors may have viewed this subject more flippantly and been more likely to prescribe such medications to prevent infection or if they felt there was remote and unlikely possibility of bacterial involvement.

There are many different ways that antibiotic therapy can be administered and the time therapy takes from start to finish. People with relatively minor infections may take a medication orally for several days to several weeks. Infection could be so severe that people need intravenous antibiotics, usually administered in a hospital setting, or injections of antibiotics. Sometimes therapy means several months of treatment with an antibiotic, either in oral or intravenous form. There are also single dose treatments, called antibiotic prophylaxis, which might be administered prior to a surgery, or for people who have heart disease or who have heart surgery, prior to dental visits.

Certain diseases or conditions may require daily antibiotic therapy, for life or the length of the disease. Children born without a spleen or that have a splenectomy might need to take prophylactic antibiotics to prevent severe infection, and this might be required for life. Other times antibiotics are viewed as therapy for diseases that might have a bacterial element to them, including some autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis or Crohn’s disease. When investigation and study proves that antibiotics may be helpful in the treatment of these illnesses, doctors may prescribe antibiotic therapy to address them.

For a person who is prescribed oral antibiotics, there are some important things that need to be remembered. People should finish all of their medication, unless directed otherwise by a doctor. Failing to fully complete antibiotic therapy may result in return of an infection that is harder to kill. Moreover, people should not use antibiotics that are left over to treat a new infection. Since bacteria come in many forms, this may be inappropriate, and anyone who is ill should seek doctor’s advice before self-prescribing antibiotics.


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