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What you should know before you go to the doctor.

When should my doctor prescribe antibiotics?
Antibiotics only help when an illness is caused by bacteria. Colds, flu, most sore throats, coughs, and bronchitis are caused by viruses not bacteria.

When someone is sick, the doctor should be the one to decide if antibiotics will be helpful. When someone does not feel well they want something to “cure” the illness. They may insist on an antibiotic prescription. But when the doctor recognizes the signs of the illness or the results of tests do not show a bacterial illness, the doctor should not prescribe antibiotics. Antibiotics will not cure an illness caused by a virus. They will not make you feel better. They do not keep others from getting sick. The doctor will give you instructions to treat the symptoms and make you feel better. He will also tell you when you need to come back or what changes to watch for.

Many times bacteria are found in the body, but not in numbers to cause illness. Taking antibiotics when they are not needed can cause this bacteria to change and grow stronger. Weak bacteria may die, but strong bacteria will survive each time antibiotics are taken. This makes antibiotic resistant bacteria. These resistant bacteria survive and multiply - causing more harm. They can cause illness that lasts longer, cause you to go to the doctor more often, and require stronger and more expensive antibiotics. Some resistant bacteria can not be killed with antibiotics at all. These bacteria can cause serious problems and even death.

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