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Reviewed 4/6/2021

Antibiotic use: True or false?

Used correctly, antibiotics can help you bounce back from an infection. But if you use them the wrong way—or when they're not needed—they can be harmful. Take this quiz to test your knowledge of these medication mistakes.

True or false: Antibiotics don't help against all infections.

True. They only fight infections caused by bacteria, fungi and certain parasites. When an infection is caused by a virus—such as the flu or the common cold—antibiotics won't help at all.

True or false: Taking antibiotics—if not needed—won't do any harm.

False. Every time you take an antibiotic you don't need—for example, if you have a cold—you increase the risk of antibiotic resistance. This means that when you do have an illness that can benefit from antibiotics, the antibiotics may not be able to work as well.

True or false: You can stop using antibiotics if you feel better.

False. Be sure to take all of the medication you're prescribed, unless your doctor tells you otherwise. That's a must even if you start to feel better in a few days. Finishing the entire prescription lowers the odds that any bacteria left in your body will become resistant to antibiotics.

True or false: There are risks to taking antibiotics—even if they are prescribed.

True. Antibiotics can provide a very powerful cure. Still, these medications carry potential side effects, such as diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, allergic reactions, vaginal infections, and nerve or tendon damage.

True or false: It's OK to take antibiotics that are left over from a previous illness.

False. The old medicine might not work against the new germs. And even if it does, there's probably not enough remaining to completely kill the surviving bacteria. And those bacteria may be more likely to become resistant to antibiotics.

It's better not to get sick in the first place. One of the best ways to prevent illness is also the simplest: Wash your hands frequently.

Discover 5 steps to clean hands

Sources: American Academy of Family Physicians; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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