Using Antibiotics Safely

Information from the experts about using prescription antibiotics safely

All About Antibiotics

Antibiotics are drugs used to treat infections caused by bacteria (germs). Each day, 15 Canadians die from antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Antibiotics are important because they save lives!


What do antibiotics help with? 

Antibiotics kill the bad (and good) bacteria in our bodies. Some common infections treated with antibiotics are:

  • urinary tract infections (UTIs)
  • pneumonia (lung infection)
  • strep throat


What antibiotics don't help with:

Antibiotics don't kill viruses. Don't take antibiotics for:

  • the common cold
  • the flu (influenza)
  • any infection caused by a virus

What are common side effects of antibiotics?

  • rash
  • dizziness
  • nausea (feeling sick to your stomach)
  • diarrhea (loose, watery poop)
  • yeast infections
  • antibiotic resistance (antibiotics may not work as well the next time you need them)


Serious side effects include:

  • C. difficile infection — this is a type of bacteria found in the intestine (gut or bowel) and stool (poop)
  • severe (very bad) or life-threatening allergic reaction

Talk with your health care provider if you have any questions about your antibiotics, or if you start having side effects, especially diarrhea. This may be a sign of C. difficile infection, which is more serious.

Antibiotic Resistance


What is antibiotic resistance?

Antibiotic resistance is when bacteria get stronger after antibiotics are used. This means that antibiotics will not work as well to kill those bacteria and treat infections the next time you use them. 

Using antibiotics too much, especially when they are not needed or for too long, leads to antibiotic resistance.


Why should I care about antibiotic resistance? I don’t take antibiotics.

  • You can be infected by antibiotic-resistant bacteria whether you take antibiotics or not.
  • 15 Canadians die each day from antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
  • Antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest threats to global health, because we will not be able to fight some bacteria if they get too strong.
  • You may need antibiotics in the future to treat or prevent an infection, such as during surgery.

What can I do to fight antibiotic resistance?

  • Wash your hands.
  • Cough into your elbow instead of your hand to avoid spreading germs. If you do cough into your hand, wash your hands as soon as possible. 
  • Get vaccinated. Check with your health care provider about your vaccines.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Don’t take antibiotics if you don’t need them. Think twice before taking antibiotics!

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