When Antibiotics Stop Working
If you get infected with C. difficile, your doctor will probably prescribe one of only three antibiotics known to work against this infection. For some people, these treatments stop their infection, at least in the short term. For others, these "standard protocol" treatments fail to work or their infection comes back again repeatedly.
Below are 6 key reasons why these antibacterial therapies stop working, why they often fail to work and what you can do to make antibiotics work better.
- Get the right antibiotic. The “standard protocol” followed by most doctors is to prescribe the milder drug metronidazole (Flagyl). If it doesn’t work, doctors often resort to vancomycin (Vancocin), a stronger drug with more potential side effects. While these drugs can stop the majority of C. diff. infections, 30% of the time they fail to work. Also, there are newer drug options, such as Fidaxomicin, that are being prescribed more for C. diff. It's important to talk openly with your doctor about your medical history, C. diff. testing and any concurrent health challenges to get the best antibiotic for you.
- Beware of over-prescribing. Antibiotics are the number one cause of C. diff. infections. Some people can stop their C. diff. infection simply by stopping their antibiotics, with their doctor's support. You can reduce the risk of C. diff. and help prevent the problem of antibiotic resistance by using antibiotics only when absolutely needed. These medications have no effect on colds, flu or any other viral infection. They are also inappropriate for most ear infections unless a bacterial infection is strongly suspected. If you really must take antibiotics and you have a history of C. difficile, extra care must be used to choose the right drug because some drugs have a higher risk of causing C. diff. than others.
- Follow the directions. If you are taking antibiotics, be sure to take the full prescribed course or duration. If you stop taking the medication early, it can increase the problem of resistance because the bacteria that are still alive are the most resistant. It’s important to take the fully prescribed course even if you feel better, unless directed to stop early by your doctor.
- Know the risks. Sometimes an antibiotic may need to be stopped because of bad side effects. Always keep your doctor in the loop with how you feel and how you react because side effects are very common with these drugs. Be sure they talk to you about the possible side effects. Some of these prescription medications have potentially severe and debilitating effects.
- Be aware of interactions and contraindications. Some foods, supplements and medications can interact or make antibiotics less effective. Ask your doctor to review anything that doesn’t mix well with your new prescription. As a general precaution, it’s best to take any supplements, probiotics or natural remedies at least 2 hours apart from antibiotics.
- Know the limitations of antibiotics. Keep in mind that antibiotics at their best can only provide short term relief. C. diff. often has a habit or returning again after you stop taking your prescription. Also, antibiotic drugs can cause many negative side effects, some of which can be worse than the infection itself.
Many people find that they need a longer term strategy beyond just taking antibiotics. Fortunately, there are effective alternatives to antibiotics and ways to boost the immune system to make the body more resistant to future infections. And if you do take antibiotics, you can counteract the negative side effects in a number of ways, including extra hydration, detoxification, symptom-relief remedies and taking an effective probiotic.
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