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What are antibiotics?

Antibiotics are drugs used to treat and/or prevent some types of bacterial infection. They do not work for every type of infection.

They work by killing bacteria, or preventing them from spreading.

It is important to follow your doctor’s advice when taking antibiotics, not taking them more, or less, than directed. It is also important not to give your antibiotics others such as friends/family as this can harm them and cause antibiotic resistance.

Antibiotics are great when used appropriately

Antibiotics are an important tool to help treat and prevent some types of bacterial infections, however the misuse, or overuse can be dangerous.

Antibiotic resistant ‘superbugs’ have developed over recent years due to the overuse of antibiotics. These superbugs jeopardize the effectiveness of current antibiotics, therefore more caution must be used when taking antibiotics.

Top tips for safe use of antibiotics

  • Only use antibiotics when prescribed to you by your doctor
  • Always complete the course, unless directed otherwise by a healthcare professional
  • Never share antibiotics with others, or take leftover antibiotics from a previous ailment
  • Make sure you take the antibiotics as directed, this information should be given to you by your doctor and can be checked with your pharmacist. Patient information leaflets can be a really useful source of advice for initial queries.

Common side effects when using antibiotics

  • Being sick
  • Feeling sick
  • Bloating and indigestion
  • Diarrhoea

Some people can have allergic reactions to certain antibiotics, this may include a rash, localized swelling, or sickness. It is important to be aware of this as in rare cases, this can lead to anaphylaxis, which is a medical emergency.

Seek immediate medical attention if:

  • You’re wheezing
  • Have trouble breathing or talking
  • Your mouth, face, lips, tongue or throat start swelling
  • You have tightness in the chest or throat
  • You get a rash with blistered skin

C difficile

C difficile (Clostridioides difficile) is a type of bacteria that often affects people who have been taking antibiotics. It comes from an imbalance in the bacteria in the bowel.


  • Diarrhoea
  • High temperature
  • Loss of appetite
  • Feeling sick
  • Stomach ache

This may be treated by stopping any antibiotics being taken, if safe to do so OR taking a course of a different antibiotic that C. difficile is susceptible to.

It is important with these symptoms, particularly with diarrhea, to stay hydrated, drinking plenty of water.

If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms following starting a course of antibiotics:

  • If you are an inpatient, alert a clinical member of staff.
  • If you are an outpatient call 111 or your GP for advice.

Antibiotic resistance/AMR?

Antibiotic resistance, also known as antimicrobial resistance (AMR), is where bacteria have adapted to become resistant to the effects of the drug, meaning it no longer works to treat them.

More information

Speak to the ward staff, or contact the Pharmacy department via switchboard on 0121 685 4000.

The Royal Orthopaedic Hospital | T: 0121 685 4000 |