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Why should I continue taking antibiotics even if I feel better?

Cynthia Kubas , NASM Elite Trainer
Sports Medicine Specialist

Microorganisms multiply rapidly, and as the "parent" microbes are exposed to the antibiotic in your system, they have the genetic machinery to "adapt" to the antibiotic, and become resistant to it in future generations. By taking the full course at the full dose, you help maximize the possibility that all of the organisms will be killed before they mutate and become resistant. Once that happens, the illness becomes, obviously, much more difficult to treat!

One should generally take a course of antibiotics as prescribed by his or her provider. By not completing a course of antibiotics, you encourage development of antibiotic resistance in bacteria that can become life-threatening in the future. Also, you may feel better and stop taking the antibiotic, which then allows the bacterial organisms to regain a foothold and cause the infection to return.

You should continue taking antibiotics even if you feel better to be sure to kill off all the bacteria that's making you sick, and to avoid the development of antibiotic resistant bacteria. If you don’t take all the doses of antibiotics you are given, only the weak bacteria will die, and the strong bacteria will not only survive, but learn how to resist antibiotics and become even stronger. These are antibiotic resistant bacteria, which can make you really sick.

Never go off medication abruptly, and never go off any medication without your physician's express permission. If you are prescribed antibiotics, for example, it is very important to take the entire amount prescribed. Do not stop after just a couple of days because you feel better. This is an exceedingly common and potentially very dangerous mistake, because the illness sometimes returns quickly and in a more virulent form. Because the bacteria causing the disease have already been exposed to the antibiotic, they often become resistant to it, and the drug no longer works effectively.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.