If I Stop Taking Antibiotics Can I Start Again? a Helpful Guide

Posted August 19, 2020 by Michael Chamberlain - See Editorial Guidelines
If I Stop Taking Antibiotics Can I Start Again? a Helpful Guide

There are several arguments regarding antibiotic dosages and procedures for taking them. However, among many of these arguments, one common argument many have is if I stop taking antibiotics, can I start again?

In this article, we’ll provide comprehensive coverage on this topic of resuming antibiotics and its health outcomes. First, here’s the quick reference answer for you, then we’ll get into some of the details.

If I Stop Taking Antibiotics, Can I Start Again? You can start retaking antibiotics after stopping if it’s to relieve immediate pain from infection. However, in general, doing this will cause antibiotic resistance, which can be fatal in the long run. Doing this may not be useful or healthy if the medical condition needs another strong antibiotic treatment.

That is the quick answer, but there is more information that we need to cover. So, let’s look at this in a bit more detail, taking into account all the nuances involved.

Can You Resume Antibiotics?

It is generally advised that a patient not start taking antibiotics again after stopping them. However, resuming antibiotics after stopping them can take place in two forms.

If I Stop Taking Antibiotics Can I Start Again

One is that a person stops taking antibiotics after their symptoms have ceased, but they start taking them again to avoid the symptoms from reoccurring.

The other form of taking antibiotics after stopping them comes when a person wants to take antibiotics (for a second round) after finishing the whole course of antibiotics prescribed.

So, below is a clear breakdown of why one should not take antibiotics after stopping them, depending on the forms of treatment they have been taking. 

1. Starting a Second Round After the Course Is Over

This is where you may feel the symptoms of a disease/ailment recurring even after the whole course of the treatment is over.

Let’s start with a couple of examples to give you a better understanding.

A person going through bronchitis or pneumonia may have taken a one-week course of antibiotics and have completed it.

This one-week course is prescribed to destroy all the bacteria of the disease. However, after this course is over, you may develop similar symptoms of the disease like coughing.

This coughing cannot be matched with the symptoms of bronchitis or pneumonia. This is because you could be coughing for some other reason not associated with bronchitis or pneumonia.

So, in this instance, if a person mistakes the coughing to be the infection coming back with the disease and wants to start on the same antibiotics, the antibiotics will provide little to no effect for this purpose

Therefore, a person may be taking antibiotics for no beneficial reason and may even be keeping unnecessary doses of antibiotics in the system, which is not healthy. 

On the other hand, a patient may be going through a condition of gonococcal urethritis and complete a one-week doxycycline antibiotic treatment. 

A few days after completing the treatment, if they feel a burning sensation while urinating or see some pus coming out from the urethra, the person may want to start the antibiotic treatment again.

In this case, yes, a person may need further antibiotic treatment, but not the doxycycline antibiotic treatment the person was already taking.

In this situation, a doctor may advise starting a new antibiotic treatment because it’s believed that starting the same antibiotic treatment after finishing and stopping the course may cause a condition of antibiotic resistance.

We’ll discuss antibiotic resistance more shortly.

However, in conditions like tuberculosis, starting another different antibiotic treatment after finishing one, is not advisable.

In diseases like tuberculosis, a person should take certain tests to confirm if the bacteria is still present in order to ascertain if they should take a different antibiotic treatment.

This is because any antibiotic treatment course is usually taken to eradicate the bacteria completely. So, before starting on a different antibiotic, it’s always best to have a test performed to verify one’s condition.

2. Stopping When Symptoms Ease – Before the Course Is Complete

Firstly, if you’re planning to start antibiotics after stopping because the symptoms have now subsided, and not because the course is over, it’s not a healthy practice.

This is because doctors prescribe antibiotics for a specified duration in the hope of destroying all possible traces of the bacteria causing an infection, or to prevent infection. An antibiotic course is also prescribed to prevent a recurring infection from coming – an infection that could potentially be stronger or more severe than the first infection.

If you stop taking antibiotics due to symptoms subsiding, then decide to take them again, your system could become resistant to antibiotics. Antibiotic resistance can cause the same antibiotics you’re planning to re-start again to be less effective against the infection.

Starting Antibiotics After Stopping the Course Causes Antibiotic Resistance 

If I Stop Taking Antibiotics Can I Start Again

Usually, whenever a doctor prescribes an antibiotic course, it’s because the doctor suspects an infection in the body. So the antibiotic course prescribed will be aimed at destroying all the bacteria that are causing the infection.

First-round antibiotic treatments are usually given for 7-10 days. When the first-round treatments are given for a specific infection, many feel relief from pain within the 24-48 hours after taking the medication.

If they then decide to stop the antibiotic at this point, the bacteria that was dying when taking the antibiotics can start to multiply again once the patient stops taking the medication.

In other words, when you stop taking antibiotics before the course is over, the infection can morph into something stronger that is resistant to the originally prescribed antibiotics.

This is why consistently taking the prescribed antibiotics for the complete course period is vital because, as destroying bacteria takes time – beyond general relief from symptoms.

So, if a patient ceases the course, then decides to start again on the same antibiotic, their infection may have learned how to resist the antibiotic. In other words, the time between stopping and restarting gives the bacteria in the body time to learn how to survive when the same antibiotics are taken again.

In these types of cases, doctors will recommend a stronger antibiotic. However, if this stopping and starting pattern continues, then bacterial growth can continue to increase, making infections worse. Worsened infections can increase one’s medical expenses, and even increase the risk of mortality

This could result in grave consequences for the patient. Learn more about when you can stop taking your medication.

To Finish

So, although it’s technically possible to start taking antibiotics after stopping as relief from immediate symptoms, it’s not ultimately a healthy, reliable, or permanent solution to the ailment. It’s always strongly recommended to complete the entire antibiotic course without stopping to avoid antibiotic resistance.

In all cases, doctors will only prescribe medication if there is a net positive result in prescribing it. This is why you must consult your physician regarding any symptoms you’re experiencing, both before and after obtaining a prescription. And always complete any antibiotic course you’re given.

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