Antibiotics: Everything You Wanted to Know But Were Afraid to Ask


Like all medications, antibiotics have both benefits and risks. Used for the right reason, they are lifesavers, but if used incorrectly, they can cause a variety of problems, from allergic reactions to side effects. Additionally, inappropriate use of antibiotics can lead to "antibiotic resistance," which means the antibiotics might not work for you when you really need them! Read more below to become an expert on this subject:

  • When to use antibiotics: Your MDLIVE provider has many years of education and experience they use to help decide if your problem requires an antibiotic. If they think you have a BACTERIAL infection, then they will likely prescribe an antibiotic, but if they think you have a VIRAL infection, they will avoid giving you an antibiotic since it will not help and may actually cause some harm. In an otherwise healthy individual, most upper respiratory infections (e.g., sinusitis, ear infections) start as a VIRAL illness and only occasionally develop into BACTERIAL infections after 1-2 weeks.
  • Can MDLIVE help with VIRAL Infections? Absolutely! When you present with symptoms for under a week, your physician will assess your full story and may treat you with decongestants and various anti-inflammatories but will avoid giving you an antibiotic in this viral phase since it does not help and may cause problems. However, if you have more severe symptoms, then your physician will use their best judgment in deciding if you have developed an early bacterial infection, and thus antibiotics would help.
  • Overuse of antibiotics may make them less effective in the future. "Antibiotic resistance" means that antibiotics are becoming less effective overall in the United States as we have overused them for many years. Additionally, no new types of antibiotics have been developed within the last ten years, so we have to be careful with what we have! In other words, not using an antibiotic today may mean that you (and others) may respond better to antibiotics when you really need them in the future.
  • Antibiotics can sometimes do more harm than good. Antibiotic side effects may include gastrointestinal upset, diarrhea, vaginal yeast infections, and decreased effectiveness of oral birth control. Even worse, you may develop an allergic reaction that can range from a mild rash to severe life-threatening breathing difficulties and anaphylactic shock. Finally, an increasingly common risk is developing a severe form of diarrhea (called C. Dificile) which occurs when the "good bacteria" in your gut are killed off by an antibiotic, allowing these "bad bacteria" to grow.
  • A doctor often spends more time with patients when they do NOT need an antibiotic. The decision about whether to use an antibiotic is not taken lightly. When your physician decides to NOT use an antibiotic, that often means they have taken more time to consider the best option for you. Your physician has considered the risks and benefits of treatment and asked the appropriate questions to arrive at the best course of action. Further, there is increasing evidence in the medical community that it is a good idea to take a "wait and see" attitude towards antibiotic usage due to increasing resistance and side effects, especially in children. Conditions such as ear infections, sore throat, sinus infection, and cough can often be managed with a variety of other medications instead.

If you have a medical or mental health emergency, call 911.

Seek immediate medical attention if you experience a life-threatening condition or acute or severe symptoms.

Customer Service
Provider Recruitment
MDLIVE Headquarters
3350 SW 148th Avenue
Suite 300
Miramar, FL 33027