What antibiotics are used for a bacterial infection?

Are you feeling under the weather lately? Not quite sure if that cough is just allergies or something more serious? Well, let me tell you (not like I’m a doctor, but who needs medical training when you have Google) – it could be a bacterial infection! But don’t worry, there’s something out there to make you feel better: antibiotics.

What are antibiotics?

First things first – what exactly are these magical pills we call antibiotics (nope, not for your stomach ache!) ? According to Merriam-Webster, an antibiotic is “a substance produced by or a semisynthetic substance derived from a microorganism and able in dilute solution to inhibit or kill another microorganism.” So basically,it’s one germ fighting off another.

How do they work?

Antibiotics target specific bacteria that cause infections. They can either kill them off completely (RIP little guys) or slow down their growth so our immune system can take care of them. Antibiotics typically only work on bacterial infections and won’t help with viral infections like the flu.(1)

Types of antibiotics

There are many different types of antibiotics out there (seriously though…who knew?). Resisting the urge to list all 129+ variations (which even I didn’t know existed), here are some basics:


Penicillin (or Amoxicillin) was discovered way back in 1928 by Alexander Fleming. And boy oh boy, has it come a long way since then. Penicillins attack gram-positive bacteria such as Streptococcus pneumoniae,Streptococcus pyogenes(the culprit behind strep throat),and Neisseria meningitidis(meningitis). Wow those were definitely mouthfuls.


Ceftriaxone, anyone? Cephalosporins are another common antibiotic, often used to treat skin infections and urinary tract infections (UTIs). This type of antibiotic can be administered orally or intravenously (through a vein). Just don’t forget to brush up on your pronunciation skills before heading into the doctor’s office!


Last but not least in our list, we have tetracyclines (nope, not for buck teeth) ! These antibiotics work by preventing bacteria from making proteins that they need to grow and divide. Tetracyclines tend to be broad – spectrum antibiotics, meaning they target both gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria(always think positive!) . Common tetracyclines include doxycycline(which helps fight off acne) (let’s hope this isn’t what you need them for… unless you’re 16), oxytetracycline(commonly found in animal feed until it was banned),and minocycline(which is often used to treat respiratory tract infections).


Not satisfied with these options? There are plenty more types out there!(2)

What conditions can antibiotics treat?

Antibiotics only work against bacterial infections. So if you’ve got some funky new virus being passed around at the office, stick away from those pills! But if it is bacterial related –boy oh boy-you’re ready. Here are just a few things that doctors might prescribe those good ol’ germs-fighting meds:

  • Sinusitis: A sinus infection caused by inflammation.
  • Strep Throat: The bad sore throat cousin.
  • Urinary Tract Infections(UTI): Insanely bad cramps and bladder pain.
  • Impetigo: Blistering rash mostly seen in kids
  • Pneumonia: An infection that inflames the air symptoms of the lungs.
  • Bronchitis: Inflammation of the lining in bronchial tubes.

Antibiotics can also be used for preventative measures. For example, if someone was bitten by an animal and it’s uncertain if the animal has rabies (who knew you had to get antibiotics for a bite!?).

Side Effects

Like most things in life – there are some side effects when taking antibiotics. The most common of them is diarrhea,with upset stomachs and yeast infections (for females) following close behind.(3)


It’s important to know what allergies you have before popping these pills. Some people might experience allergic reactions-which could develop into more serious consequences such as anaphylaxis(4).


Lastly, one should avoid overusing antibiotics unless absolutely necessary.(I won’t even attempt making a joke here.) Overuse leads to antibiotic resistance which means -you guessed it -the bacteria start developing resistances ,and before we know it, those once magic pills go useless.(5)

When should I take them?

Great Question! You should only take Antibiotics when prescribed by a doctor. It’s possible that your ailment may not need any medication at all. And remember, as much fun as rummaging through your local pharmacy is, avoiding self-medication is crucial because:

1.Failure or delay to treat
2.Masking Symptoms
3.Can cause complications

As silly as my commentary maybe – always consult with your health provider, both diagnosis and treatment wise.


In conclusion,those small little capsule looking things can do wonders for bacterial infections but shouldn’t be taken casually nor irresponsibly .While they really work & Hey,Alexander Fleming sure deserves all his credits! ,one mustn’t forget they come with a bunch of baggage in the form of side effects.

So next time you’re feeling under the weather-get to know your microorganisms and reach out for professional help(6) !

1. Mayo Clinic (2020). Antibiotics: Misuse puts you and others at risk.
2. Healthline (2019). Types Of Antibiotics And Their Uses.
3. Cleveland Clinic Health Essentials (2018). Side Effects of Taking Antibiotics – And How to Prevent Them!
4. Johns Hopkins Medicine, Patient Care Options.(2021).
5.CDC.(2021).Antibiotic Resistance Threats in America, 2019.
6.Healthwise Staff, Kaiser Permanente :Health Boards .Reviewed by David Zieve,MD,MHA ;Gregg A.Warshaw ,MD,Geriatric Psychiatry St.Lukes-Rooseveal Hospital Center/ Departmentof Psychiatry /Columbia University/(2000-20O7)

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