Over the counter antibiotics are basically medicines that you can buy at the local pharmacy without a doctor’s prescription on hand. However, there are actually many countries, especially the more developed ones, that have much stricter rules and regulations on such over the counter antibiotics. The thing is, these more developed countries do not actually allow any customer to easily buy off over the counter antibiotics at the local pharmacy, which means that they are still asked by the pharmacist to show them a doctor’s prescription saying that they are really in need of one or more of those over the counter antibiotics.
There are actually many reasons as to why many countries impose stricter rules on these so-called over the counter antibiotics. Some of them are:
- Side effects – Just like prescription antibiotics, over the counter antibiotics can also cause side effects, and some of them can be really nasty. If you ingest an antibiotic that it turns out you are allergic to it, you can develop a life-threatening anaphylactic shock. Other side effects caused by taking over the counter antibiotics without much deduction as to why you are taking it include diarrhea, liver toxicity, nausea, stomach pain, kidney failure, colitis, or even brain damage.
- Bad Interactions with other Substances – There are some over the counter antibiotics that must never be mixed with specific foods, alcohol or other medicines. For instance, taking cephalosporins (like cephalexin) along with alcoholic drinks may cause you to have stomach cramps or nausea. Taking erythromycin with some grapefruit juice can make you suffer from fatal heart arrhythmias. It is best that you ask your doctor or pharmacist first and read the medicine pamphlet as well to learn all about what should or should not be taken along with the antibiotic you are using.
- Danger of being misdiagnosed – Over the counter antibiotics, while they do really help a lot, are actually not a cure for everything. Remember that they are only potent when the infection is caused by bacterial organisms. This means that if you have an infection in which the culprit is a virus, then using over the counter antibiotics is a total waste. There are many over the counter antibiotics out there, and each is designed to combat a specific bacterial organism. Only licensed medical practitioners can determine whether a certain antibiotic is the right one for your condition. If an inexperienced or untrained individual with no medical experience takes the incorrect antibiotic to treat a specific condition, they may potentially make their condition much worse and they may cause themselves to end up in the hospital receiving proper (and more expensive) care.
- Danger of developing antibiotic-resistant bacteria – There is a high chance that over the counter antibiotics would be really misused or abused, which leads to the bacteria developing some sort of antibiotic resistance. Once such bacteria become antibiotic-resistant, they will definitely be much difficult to get rid of, and what’s worse would be that if they do spread to others, they can wreak havoc in the community, causing unnecessary panic and worry.