Antibiotics: How to use them effectively?

Publié le 02 février 2024 - Directorate for Legal and Administrative Information (Prime Minister)

Santé Publique France is distributing an awareness campaign to inform you about the correct use of antibiotics. The slogan is “Antibiotics: good treatment means good use first”. In particular, the campaign reminds us that this type of medicine is only effective in the case of bacterial diseases.

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Image 1Crédits: sebboy12 -

Antibiotics are useful, for example, to fight:

  • cystitis;
  • bacterial pneumonia;
  • Bacterial sore throat (to find out if you have sore throat from bacteria, you should do a Trod, a rapid diagnostic test).
  • bacterial meningitis.

They are, however, ineffective against viral diseases such as

  • nasopharyngitis in children and adults;
  • influenza;
  • acute bronchitis;
  • viral angina.

Please note

when you have a viral infection, antibiotics do not relieve your fever, cough, headache, digestive problems or body aches. Other types of drugs that relieve these symptoms include acetaminophen for fever and body aches. Most often, your immune system is able to fight common viruses during the winter on its own. Healing occurs naturally within 1 to 2 weeks. However, it is recommended that you consult your doctor if your symptoms are persistent or worsening.

What to do to keep antibiotics effective

Santé publique France reports that the repeated and inappropriate use of antibiotics has encouraged the appearance of bacteria that have become resistant to this type of medicine, so-called antibiotic resistance. Bacteria may develop defense mechanisms, which reduce or cancel the action of the antibiotics fighting them. As a result, some infections are becoming increasingly difficult to cure.

To combat the development of bacterial resistance and to preserve the effectiveness of antibiotics, it is necessary to use them only on medical prescription. Then, if your doctor prescribes antibiotics, it is especially important to:

  • adhere to the dose, dosing frequency and duration of your antibiotic treatment, according to what is on your prescription;
  • do not give your antibiotics to anyone else, as each treatment is prescribed for a specific type of infection and tailored to each person;
  • ask your doctor for advice if you think you are having any side effects (rash, nausea...);
  • do not use an antibiotic again after treatment has finished, even if you have symptoms that resemble those you have had previously.

You can also return to your pharmacist any opened or unused cans of antibiotics after your treatment has finished.