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    How Do Antibiotics Work? How Long They Take to Work & More

    Antibiotics are powerful, lifesaving medications used to fight infections caused by bacteria. Learn more here.

    How Do Antibiotics Work?

    Medically reviewed by Alan Carter, Pharm.D. — Written by the Healthline Medical Network on February 2, 2022

    What’s an antibiotic?

    Antibiotics are medications used to fight infections caused by bacteria. They’re also called antibacterials. They treat infections by killing or decreasing the growth of bacteria.

    The first modern-day antibiotic was used in 1936. Before antibiotics, 30 percent

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    of all deaths in the United States were caused by bacterial infections. Thanks to antibiotics, previously fatal infections are curable.

    Today, antibiotics are still powerful, lifesaving medications for people with certain serious infections. They can also prevent less serious infections from becoming serious.

    There are many classes of antibiotics. Certain types of antibiotics work best for specific types of bacterial infections.

    Antibiotics come in many forms, including:

    tablets capsules liquids creams ointments

    Most antibiotics are only available with a prescription from your doctor. Some antibiotic creams and ointments are available over the counter.

    How do antibiotics work against bacteria?

    Antibiotics treat Trusted Source Trusted Source

    bacterial infections either by killing bacteria or slowing and suspending its growth. They do this by:

    attacking the wall or coating surrounding bacteria

    interfering with bacteria reproduction

    blocking protein production in bacteria

    How long do antibiotics take to work?

    Antibiotics begin to work right after you start taking them. However, you might not feel better for 2 to 3 days.

    How quickly you get better after antibiotic treatment varies. It also depends on the type of infection you’re treating.

    Most antibiotics should be taken for 7 to 14 days

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    . In some cases, shorter treatments work just as well. Your doctor will decide the best length of treatment and correct antibiotic type for you.

    Even though you might feel better after a few days of treatment, it’s best to finish the entire antibiotic regimen in order to fully resolve your infection. This can also help prevent antibiotic resistance. Don’t stop your antibiotic regimen early unless your healthcare professional says you can do so.

    What are antibiotics made of?

    The first beta-lactam antibiotic, penicillin, was discovered

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    by accident. It was growing from a blob of mold on a petri dish. Scientists found that a certain type of fungus naturally produced penicillin. Eventually, penicillin was produced in large amounts in a laboratory through fermentation using the fungus.

    Some other early antibiotics were produced by bacteria found in ground soil.

    Today, all antibiotic medications are produced in a lab. Some are made through a series of chemical reactions that produce the substance used in the medication.

    Other antibiotics are at least partly made through a natural but controlled process. This process is often enhanced with certain chemical reactions that can alter the original substance to create a different medication.

    What is antibiotic resistance?

    Antibiotics are powerful medications that work very well for certain types of illnesses. However, some antibiotics are now less useful than they once were due to an increase in antibiotic resistance.

    Antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria can no longer be controlled or killed by certain antibiotics. In some cases, this can mean there are no effective treatments for certain conditions.

    Each year, there are more than 2.8 million

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    cases of bacterial infections that are resistant to antibiotics, resulting in at least 35,000 deaths.

    When you take an antibiotic, the sensitive bacteria are eliminated. The bacteria that survive during antibiotic treatment are often resistant to that antibiotic. These bacteria typically have unique characteristics that prevent antibiotics from working on them.

    Some serious antibiotic-resistant infections include:

    Clostridioides difficile difficile (C. diff)

    The overgrowth of this type of bacteria causes infection in both your small and large intestines. This often occurs after someone’s treated with antibiotics for a different bacterial infection. C. diff is naturally resistant to many antibiotics.

    Vancomycin-resistant enterococcus (VRE)

    These bacteria often infect your bloodstream, urinary tract, or surgical wounds. This infection typically occurs in people who are hospitalized. Enterococci infections may be treated with the antibiotic vancomycin, but VRE is resistant to this treatment.

    Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)

    This type of infection is resistant to traditional staph infection antibiotics. MRSA infections typically occur on your skin. It’s most common in people in hospitals and those with weakened immune systems.

    Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE)

    This class of bacteria are resistant to a lot of other antibiotics. CRE infections typically occur in people in hospitals and who are on a mechanical ventilator or have indwelling catheters.

    The most important cause of antibiotic resistance is inappropriate use or overuse of antibiotics. As much as 28 percent

    Source : www.healthline.com

    Amoxicillin: antibiotic to treat bacterial infections

    NHS medicines information on amoxicillin – what it's used for, side effects, dosage and who can take it.



    Brand name: Respillin

    On this page

    About amoxicillin Key facts

    Who can and cannot take amoxicillin

    How and when to take amoxicillin

    Side effects

    How to cope with side effects of amoxicillin

    Pregnancy and breastfeeding

    Cautions with other medicines

    Common questions about amoxicillin

    1. About amoxicillin

    Amoxicillin is a penicillin antibiotic. It is used to treat bacterial infections, such as chest infections (including pneumonia) and dental abscesses. It can also be used together with other antibiotics and medicines to treat stomach ulcers.

    It's often prescribed for children, to treat ear infections and chest infections.

    Amoxicillin is only available on prescription. It comes as capsules or as a liquid that you swallow. It's also given by injection, but this is usually only done in hospital.

    2. Key facts

    For most infections, you'll start to feel better in a few days.

    The most common side effects of amoxicillin are feeling sick (nausea) and diarrhoea.

    Liquid amoxicillin can stain your teeth. This does not last and is removed by brushing.

    You can drink alcohol while taking amoxicillin.

    Sometimes, taking amoxicillin can cause thrush.

    3. Who can and cannot take amoxicillin

    Amoxicillin can be taken by most adults and children.

    Find out more about giving amoxicillin to children on the Medicines for Children website.

    Amoxicillin is not suitable for everyone. To make sure amoxicillin is safe for you, tell your doctor if you:

    have ever had an allergic reaction to amoxicillin or penicillin or any other medicine

    have liver or kidney problems

    have recently had, or are due to have, any vaccinations

    4. How and when to take amoxicillin


    The usual dose of amoxicillin capsules is 250mg to 500mg, taken 3 times a day. The dose may be lower for children.

    Amoxicillin liquid is available in 125mg and 250mg doses.


    Carry on taking this medicine until you've completed the course, even if you feel better. If you stop your treatment early, the infection could come back.

    How to take it

    Try to space the doses evenly throughout the day. If you take it 3 times a day, this could be first thing in the morning, mid-afternoon and at bedtime.

    You can take amoxicillin before or after food.

    Swallow amoxicillin capsules whole with a drink of water. Do not chew or break them.

    Amoxicillin is available as a liquid for children and people who find it difficult to swallow capsules.

    If you or your child are taking liquid amoxicillin, it will usually be made up for you by your pharmacist. The medicine will come with a plastic syringe or spoon to help you measure out the right dose. If you do not have one, ask your pharmacist for one. Do not use a kitchen teaspoon as it will not measure the right amount.

    If you forget to take it

    If you forget to take a dose, take it as soon as you remember, unless it's nearly time for your next dose. In this case, just leave out the missed dose and take your next dose at the usual time.

    Never take 2 doses at the same time. Never take an extra dose to make up for a forgotten one.

    If you forget doses often, it may help to set an alarm to remind you. You could also ask your pharmacist for advice on other ways to remember your medicines.

    If you take too much

    Taking an extra dose of amoxicillin is unlikely to harm you or your child, but speak to your pharmacist or doctor if you're worried.

    Urgent advice:

    Contact 111 for advice now if:

    You have taken more than your prescribed dose of amoxicillin and have symptoms including:

    stomach pain or you're being sick

    blood in your pee

    difficulty peeing or producing less pee than usual

    Go to 111.nhs.uk or call 111

    5. Side effects

    Like all medicines, amoxicillin can cause side effects, although not everyone gets them.

    Common side effects

    These common side effects happen in around 1 in 10 people. Keep taking the medicine, but talk to your doctor or pharmacist if these side effects bother you or do not go away:

    feeling sick (nausea)


    Serious side effects

    Serious side effects are rare and happen in less than 1 in 1,000 people.

    Call a doctor or contact 111 straight away if you get:

    diarrhoea (possibly with stomach cramps) that contains blood or mucus or severe diarrhoea that lasts for more than 4 days

    pale poo and dark pee, and the whites of your eyes or your skin turn yellow (although this may be less obvious on brown or black skin) – these can be signs of liver or gallbladder problems

    bruising or changes in your skin colour

    joint or muscle pain that comes on after 2 days of taking the medicine

    a skin rash with circular red patches (this may be less obvious on brown or black skin)

    Some of these serious side effects can happen up to 2 months after finishing the amoxicillin.

    Serious allergic reaction

    Around 1 in 15 people have an allergic reaction to amoxicillin.

    In most cases, the allergic reaction is mild and can take the form of a skin rash.

    Mild skin rashes can usually be treated by taking antihistamines.

    In rare cases, amoxicillin can cause a serious allergic reaction (anaphylaxis).

    Source : www.nhs.uk


    Amoxicillin is a penicillin-class antibiotic used to treat bacterial infections, including infections of the nose, ears, throat, skin and urinary tract.

    Home Amoxicillin


    Amoxicillin belongs to the beta-lactam class of antibiotics and is approved to treat bacterial infections, including infections of the nose, ears, throat, lung, skin and urinary tract. Medical providers may also prescribe it with other drugs to treat stomach ulcers caused by H. pylori bacteria.

    By Michelle Llamas

    Edited By Sophia Clifton

    This page features 10 Cited Research Articles

    Last Modified: April 27, 2022


    Amoxicillin is one of the most commonly prescribed antibiotics. It’s similar to penicillin and can kill a wide variety of bacteria including Streptococcus species, Listeria monocytegenes, Enterococcus, Haemophilus influenzae, some E. coli, Actinomyces, Clostridial species, Shigella, Salmonella, and Corynebacteria.

    This antibiotic belongs to a specific class of drugs called beta-lactams. Beta-lactam antibiotics such as amoxicillin work by binding proteins and inhibiting certain processes in bacterial cells. This causes the cell walls to break down and destroys the bacteria, a process called bactericidal killing.


    Amoxicillin doesn’t work against the flu, colds or other viral infections, and taking amoxicillin and other antibiotics for these illnesses increases the risk of developing antibiotic-resistant infections.

    Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine

    Amoxicillin begins to work quickly after a patient takes it, and it reaches peak blood concentrations in about one or two hours, according to the drug’s label. However, improvement in symptoms will take longer. People should see their symptoms improve within 72 hours, or about three days, but could see improvement as early as 24 hours, according to licensed pharmacist Brian Staiger.

    If patients don’t see an improvement in three days, they should speak to their medical provider about other treatment options.

    How to Take Amoxicillin

    Instructions for how to take amoxicillin are different depending on the condition being treated. Amoxicillin is typically prescribed in its generic form, but it’s available in the following brand names in the United States: Amoxil, Larotid and Moxatag.

    This medicine is an oral antibiotic, which means it has to be taken by mouth. It comes in capsules, tablets, chewable tablets or a suspension that can be mixed into cold drinks.

    People can take this drug with or without food.

    Amoxicillin comes in the following strengths:

    Chewable tablets: 125 mg, 250 mg

    Capsules: 250 mg, 500 mg

    Powder for oral suspension: 50 mg/mL, 125 mg/5 mL, 200 mg/5 mL, 250 mg/5 mL, 400 mg/5 mL

    Tablet: 500 mg, 875 mg

    Recommended Dosages

    In general, patients should continue taking amoxicillin for the full length of time as prescribed by their doctor, even if they feel better sooner.

    Make sure to follow your medical provider’s instructions on how to take the medicine, and try to take it at the same time each day. Take any missed doses as soon as you remember to. But if it’s almost time for the next dose, skip the missed dose and take your next scheduled dose. Don’t try to make up for a missed dose by taking two doses at the same time.

    Recommendations for Adults and Children


    Mild, moderate or severe lower respiratory tract 875 mg every 12 hours


    500 mg every 8 hours 45 mg/kg/day in divided doses every 12 hours


    40 mg/kg/day in divided doses every 8 hours

    Mild or moderate ear, nose, throat skin, skin structure and genitourinary tract 500 mg every 12 hours


    250 mg every 8 hours 25 mg/kg/day in divided doses every 12 hours


    20 mg/kg/day in divided doses every 8 hours

    Severe ear, nose, throat, skin, skin structure and genitourinary tract 875 mg every 12 hours


    500 mg every 8 hours 45 mg/kg/day in divided doses every 12 hours


    40 mg/kg/day in divided doses every 8 hours

    Source: Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine

    Dosages for Impaired Kidney Function

    Medical providers will adjust the dosage for people with severe kidney impairment.

    Because children younger than three months of age have incomplete kidney development, medical providers should not exceed a dosage of 30 mg/kg/day divided every 12 hours.

    Dosage for H. Pylori Infection

    Medical providers combine amoxicillin with clarithromycin and lansoprazole — known by the brand name Prevacid — to treat H. pylori infections.

    For triple therapy, the recommended dose for adults is 500 mg clarithromycin, one gram amoxicillin and 30 mg lansoprazole. All of these medications are given twice daily (every 12 hours) for 14 days.

    For dual therapy, the recommended dose for adults is 30 mg lansoprazole and one gram amoxicillin each given three times daily (every 8 hours) for 14 days.


    In general, people who mildly overdose on amoxicillin don’t suffer serious problems, according to the drug’s label. In a study of 51 children at a poison control center, research suggests that an overdose of less than 250 mg/kg body weight doesn’t cause serious issues.

    But kidney disorders resulting in organ failure after overdose have been reported in a small number of patients.

    Source : www.drugwatch.com

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