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What Are Antibiotics?

Antibiotics are medications that fight infections caused by bacteria. Respiratory infections commonly experienced by people with COPD are often referred to as exacerbations (worsening) of COPD. Many times an infection starts with a simple cold. Signs of an infection can be increased mucus or phlegm production, breathlessness and cough. Mucus that is usually clear may change color to yellow, green or brown.

Antibiotics are not generally useful for treating common colds. In addition, antibiotics are not always needed for treating worsening of symptoms (exacerbations), such as breathlessness and cough, unless there are signs of an infection.

What kinds of antibiotics are there?
There are many different kinds of antibiotics. The type of antibiotics you take depends on the type of infection you have and what kind of antibiotics are known to be effective in treating common infections in your community. Examples of some common antibiotics include: amoxicillin, ampicillin, amoxicillin-clavulanate, azithromycin, doxycycline, tetracycline and trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole.

What problems (side-effects) should I watch for with antibiotics?
The most common side-effects from antibiotics are nausea, diarrhea, stomach distress and skin rashes. Some people can develop a serious allergic reaction to antibiotics. If any of these develop, contact your healthcare provider.

How often and how much should I take?
The dosage and how often you take the antibiotics will vary depending on the specific antibiotic your healthcare provider prescribes you and the type of infection you have. Depending on the kind of antibiotics you are given, you may be asked to take them for a few days to several weeks. Once you have started a course of antibiotics, you must take them for the number of days that your healthcare provider has prescribed, no more or less. By stopping the antibiotics sooner than the prescribed length of treatment, you may cause the bacteria to return and become more difficult to control.

Antibiotics can be taken either before or during a meal. Follow the directions that your healthcare provider or pharmacist gives you. Some antibiotics should not be taken with milk , milk products or antacids.

What should I do if I forget to take my antibiotics?
If you forget to take your antibiotics, take the next dose as soon as you remember and re-adjust your schedule. This may mean extending the amount of time you take your antibiotics by several hours to half a day. For example, if you usually take your antibiotic at 8 am daily, but forget and remember to take your medication at 2 pm, take your antibiotic at about 2 pm daily from then on. While it is not good to miss a dose of antibiotics, a missed dosage can be compensated for by extending the length of treatment by a dose.