Why is it so important for me to finish my antibiotics even when I feel better?
Many people feel better and believe there is no need to continue with their medication, but this can be very deceptive. What most people don't realize is that when antibiotics are administered, the time in which you take them has to do with the odds of you successfully treating the infection. For example, if you are given a seven-day course and you only take it for four days, there may be only a 60% chance of it being effective. As you increase the time you take it, the greater the odds that it will be effective and you will not have a recurrence.
For example, if a person has a respiratory infection and takes the entire course of antibiotic, there may be a 95% chance that the infection is taken care of. Every day a dose is skipped, you reduce the chances of effectiveness. The other important reason to complete an entire antibiotic course is that if you partially treat an infection and the infection gets worse, it will be harder to treat it the next time. You could possibly develop a resistance to antibiotics from the present illness or future illnesses.
People with chronic medical conditions such as COPD, congestive heart failure, and diabetes should definitely complete their antibiotics because they are at increased risk of having persistent infections. People who have recurrent infections are also more at risk of having resistant organisms, so it is even more important for them to complete their antibiotics.
Dr. Brad Collins is an internist at East Jefferson General Hospital. To make an appointment with Dr. Collins or another physician at EJGH, please contact HealthFinder at 504-456-5000.