Antibiotics: Tips for Safe Use

ByABC News

Aug. 8, 2007— -- In the time since penicillin was discovered nearly 80 years ago, antibiotics have become one of the most important lifesaving weapons in doctors' arsenal against bacterial infection.

Now, the Lakeland, Fla.-based Publix grocery store chain is giving away seven of these drugs free of charge to those who have prescriptions for them.

Five of these -- amoxicillin, ampicillin, cephalexin, erythromycin and penicillin VK -- are commonly used by doctors to treat bacterial infections ranging from ear infections to gonorrhea.

But two of the drugs on the list -- ciprofloxacin and sulfamethoxazole/trimethoprim -- are high-grade antibiotics that doctors usually reserve for particularly serious infections.

While some hail the program as a godsend, others fear that the move could lead to overuse of the drugs.

This is because the use of antibiotics comes attached with important considerations. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, there are certain situations in which antibiotics are helpful -- and many in which they can cause more harm than good.

Here are just a few tips that consumers can use to keep themselves safe when it comes to antibiotics:

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