How long do antibiotics take to work? | The Sun

THEY are often seen as the go-to pill if you're feeling unwell.

But antibiotics are specifically used to help our bodies fight off nasty infections.

And chances are, you've taken them.

Millions of Brits are prescribed the drugs each year for a whole range of illnesses.

Once upon a time, antibiotics were handed out relatively freely.

But since many countries have joined the fight to prevent antibiotic resistance, the drugs are no longer routinely used to treat all infections.

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Antibiotics don't work for everything and here we take a look at how long it takes them to work and whether or not you need to take the full course.

How long does it take for antibiotics to start working?

It might feel like you've been unwell for a long time, and in most cases you'll want to get better as soon as possible.

Antibiotics work by killing bacteria or preventing them from spreading, the NHS states.

However – they don't work for for viral infections.

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This includes colds and flu, Covid, chest infections, ear infections in children, and most coughs and sore throats.

In most cases they will be prescribed to you if the bacterial infection won't clear up without them or if you could infect others.

Medication could also be given if the infection would take too long to clear on its own or if it carries the risk of more serious complications.

When will I feel better and are there any side effects?

Everyone is different – as is there response to antibiotics.

Most people will feel better towards the end of the course, but this varies.

"It depends on the infection and antibiotic being taken," Mike Hewitson, a pharmacist from Bristol says.

"Remember that even if you feel better from the infection the antibiotics may make you feel unwell.

"Antibiotics can make you feel nauseous or give you an upset stomach," he adds.

If you have completed the course and don't see any signs of improvement, talk to your doctor or pharmacist.

According to Mike Hewitson, a pharmacist from Bristol, antibiotics get to work immediately, but you might not start to feel better straight away.

"How quickly you begin to work depends what antibiotic you are on, the strength of it and what infection you are treating," Mike says.

"If you're receiving them through an IV they can begin to work within hours.

"But some oral antibiotics can take a weeks or so to take effect," he adds.

Most antibiotics should be taken for seven to 14 days. In some cases, shorter treatments work just as well.

Your doctor will decide the best length of treatment and correct antibiotic type for you.

Do I need to take my full course of antibiotics?

If you're starting to feel better it can be tempting to stop taking your antibiotics – but don't.

"It's very important to finish your course of antibiotics, even if you're no longer feeling infectious and you feel better," Mike says

"Not finishing the course may result in the infection returning," he adds.

Doing so also contributes to the growing issue of antibiotic resistance. 

Don’t stop your antibiotics early without first talking with your healthcare provider.

If you forget to take an antibiotic, it's not the end of the world, but take that dose as soon as you remember and carry on with the course of antibiotics as normal.

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But if it's almost time for the next dose, skip the missed one and continue your regular dosing schedule.

Do not take a double dose to make up for a missed one as this can increase the risk of side effects.

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