This is the second time you visit your doctor in a week, and you ask your doctor for antibiotics. He tells you that antibiotics are not necessary because you are not having a bacterial infection. Confused? Our doctor at raffles medical  answers your common questions on antibiotics.

Why is my doctor not prescribing antibiotics?

Doctors must first ascertain that the patient is suffering from a bacterial infection as antibiotics do not work on infections caused by viruses. Taking an antibiotic for a viral infection will not aid recovery, and may even cause unnecessary and harmful side effects.

If you take an antibiotic when you actually have a viral infection, the antibiotic attacks beneficial or unrelated bacteria in your body. This misdirected treatment will then promote antibiotic-resistant properties in harmless bacteria that can be shared with other bacteria, or create an opportunity for potentially harmful bacteria to replace the harmless ones.

What should i take note of when prescribed with antibiotics?

You should never take antibiotics prescribed for another person. If you are prescribed antibiotics, you should: 


  • Use antibiotics only as prescribed by your doctor.
  • Never take leftover antibiotics for a later illness. They may not be the correct antibiotic for your condition and would not constitute a full course of treatment.
  • Finish the whole course as prescribed.

Many patients stop after they feel better as they are afraid that the antibiotics will kill the ‘good’ bacteria. Failure to take an antibiotic as prescribed can result in the need to resume treatment later, and may promote the spread of antibiotic-resistant properties among harmful bacteria.

Do antibiotics have any side effects?

As with all medicines, there are a number of side effects related to antibiotics. While most side effects are not serious, you need to visit your doctor if you are experiencing the following:

  • Feeling sick and vomiting
  • Signs of a vaginal thrush (vaginal itching or discharge)
  • Signs of an oral thrush (white patches on the tongue)
  • Signs of a serious bacterial infection of the gut (severe watery diarrhoea and abdominal cramps)
  • Signs of an allergic reaction, such as shortness of breath, hives, rash, swelling of the lips, face, or tongue or fainting
Viral infections vs Bacterial infections
Viruses Bacteria
Illnesses caused by viruses include:
• Chickenpox
• Aids
• Common cold
• Flu
• Sore throat

Single-celled microorganism that thrive in many different types of environments. Infections caused by bacteria include:
• Strep throat
• Tuberculosis
• Whooping cough
• Urinary tract infections

Treated using antiviral drugs

or prevention by vaccinations

Treated using a prescribed course of antibiotics