How To Get Over The Counter Antibiotic Pills

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Many people don’t have the time to be sick. Missed work days can result in docked pay, and some employers require a doctor’s note if you take multiple days off.

When you start feeling symptoms of a condition, you want a quick solution to help you feel better as soon as possible without a trip to the doctor.

Over-the-counter (OTC) medications are drugs you can purchase from a pharmacy without a doctor’s prescription. Government regulations prevent certain medications from being sold over the counter, even ones that treat common conditions. Here’s what you need to know about over the counter antibiotic pills.

Need an antibiotic prescription?

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What are antibiotics?

Illnesses are caused by germs—microscopic organisms called bacteria and viruses. Antibiotics are medications that kill bacteria or make it hard for them to grow and multiply.

Some antibiotics are considered broad-spectrum antibiotics, effectively killing many different types of bacteria.

These are often prescribed to treat common infections. However, more severe conditions may require specific antibiotics that kill the bacteria causing them. Your doctor must run a culture to identify the bacteria responsible in this case.

Over the counter antibiotic pills

Because antibiotics need to target the type of infection they are treating specifically, you cannot get most antibiotics without a prescription from a licensed doctor, physician’s assistant, or nurse practitioner.

However, you can purchase some topical antibiotics used to treat minor scrapes, burns, cuts, and acne over the counter. Neosporin and other bacitracin-based ointments are examples of topical over-the-counter medicines. Acne medications like Proactiv and Clearskin are another example.

How do I get over the counter antibiotic pills?

To get antibiotics, you should schedule an appointment with a healthcare provider. If you have a general practitioner, try and schedule an appointment with them.

However, suppose you do not have a regular doctor. In that case, you can also visit an urgent care clinic, schedule an appointment with a telehealth provider, or—in an emergency—go to the emergency room of your local hospital.

A healthcare professional will then evaluate your symptoms and run tests—like a throat swab for Strep throat or a urine culture for a suspected UTI—to decide whether you require antibiotics to treat your infection and which might work best.

Do I need a prescription for antibiotics?

Apart from the previously mentioned topical antibiotics, you will always need a prescription to get antibiotics. A pharmacy will not sell you antibiotics if you do not have a prescription written by a licensed healthcare professional with the authority to do so, either a doctor, a physician’s assistant, or a nurse practitioner.

Certain clinical pharmacists may also be able to re-prescribe you medications for conditions previously diagnosed by a doctor, including urinary tract infections.

Most commonly prescribed antibiotics

There are over a hundred different antibiotics, but some are prescribed more frequently than others.

According to the CDC, the five most commonly prescribed antibiotics are:

  • Amoxicillin
  • Azithromycin
  • Amoxicillin/clavulanic acid
  • Cephalexin
  • Ciprofloxacin

five most commonly prescribed over the counter antibiotic pills

Getting antibiotics online

When getting an antibiotic prescription, one of the biggest obstacles people experience is finding time to see a doctor. Depending on your job, getting time off when most offices are open may be difficult, especially if you work odd hours.

As a result, your options could be limited to waiting in lines at a healthcare clinic or the emergency room.

Telehealth allows you to see a doctor any time of the day or night from the comfort of your home. A healthcare provider who sees you over the internet for a virtual appointment has all the same qualifications to assess your symptoms and write you a valid prescription if they feel it is necessary.

Risk of Antibiotic resistance

A doctor will not write you an antibiotic prescription if you do not have a bacterial infection. This is not just to protect your health as an individual; preventing the overuse of antibiotics is an essential public health measure. Bacteria are living organisms and, like every living thing, can evolve.

The theory of evolution tells us that organisms evolve to be more fit to survive in their current environment. In an environment flooded with antibiotics, the bacteria that can survive the drugs that kill them become the fittest.

How do certain bacteria survive contact with antibiotic medications? Antibiotics work by targeting certain traits of the bacteria conferred by their DNA and disabling their ability to grow and spread.

If a random genetic mutation changes that trait in a single organism, the antibiotic will no longer be able to disable that bacterium. If this is just one bacterium out of thousands or millions, it’s not a problem.

However, suppose too many antibiotics are used. In that case, the dominant bacteria susceptible to the antibiotics are likely to get killed off en mass, leaving only the resistant strain to reproduce.

If that strain gets the chance to infect somebody, the usual medications used to treat that infection will be useless.

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria may be impossible to treat, leading to severe or fatal infections. The only other solution may be a more potent antibiotic—which may cause serious side effects, including organ failure.

Many of these second-line and third-line antibiotics can only be administered intravenously, meaning the patient will have to stay the entire course of treatment in an inpatient facility, risking exposure to further infections and causing significant disruption to their life.

The immunocompromised and those with autoimmune conditions may be especially susceptible to these infections.

The best way to prevent bacteria from developing drug resistance is to avoid taking antibiotics unless necessary.

Antibiotics don’t treat viral or fungal infections. In addition, taking antibiotics when you have a cold or flu won’t provide relief and may cause unpleasant side effects, including gas, diarrhea, and abdominal cramping.

When to see a doctor

How do you know when you might need antibiotics to get rid of infection instead of letting it run its course? The first sign you should consult a doctor is if you have a very high fever, over 103 degrees, or if your fever lasts for more than three days without breaking.

You should consider a medical examination if you have a cough that lasts several weeks, chest pain, or shortness of breath.

You should seek medical care if you get any of the following symptoms:

  • Extreme or persistent vomiting or diarrhea
  • Bloody stool, urine, sputum, or vomit
  • Severe pain in your pelvis or abdomen

It is not normal to feel unwell for more than two weeks. If you go longer than that without feeling better, see a doctor. You might initially have had a viral infection and developed a secondary bacterial infection, or something more serious may be happening.

It never hurts to see a doctor if you have any concerns. They can run tests and at least help rule out any bacterial infections.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

If you still have questions about where and how to get over the counter antibiotic pills. Here are some FAQs and answers.

Once you have a prescription from a doctor for antibiotics, you can take that prescription to a pharmacy to have it filled. In the digital age, your doctor may even be able to send the prescription directly to the pharmacy from their office over the internet. Like healthcare providers, pharmacies can also exist either as brick-and-mortar locations or online.

Online pharmacies deliver your medications directly to your door. Keep in mind that shipping takes time. If you have an acute infection requiring antibiotic treatment, your doctor will probably prefer you pick up your antibiotics in person the same day they are prescribed.

Pharmacies used to be small, independent businesses owned and operated by the local pharmacist. However, large chain pharmacies such as CVS and Walgreens have become dominant. Most communities have at least one of each, if not multiple, locations of the same chain within walking distance or a short drive.

You can also fill prescriptions at pharmacy counters in big box stores like Target or Walmart or even certain chains of grocery stores.

No, you cannot get Zithromax over the counter. Zithromax is an antibiotic classified as a prescription drug. This drug is typically used to treat bacterial infections at a doctor’s prescription.

Using antibiotics without a prescription can often result in improper or incorrect drug usage. Incorrectly using antibiotics can cause a bacterial infection to become more potent than the drug. Hence, creating an antibiotic-resistant bacterial infection.

There are alternative remedies available for people to consider. Some of these remedies include:

  • Garlic
  • Clove
  • Oregano
  • Ginger
  • Goldenseal
  • Honey

Viral and fungal infections can and should be treated without antibiotics. Antibiotic medications specifically only target bacteria. Not only will they not help you feel better or get the disease out of your system any faster, but any potential side effects that these medications might cause may make you feel worse than the initial illness.

If you have a fungal infection, you will likely need an antifungal medication to clear it up.

Your body can fight off many viruses on its own. Viruses are not traditionally “alive” in the same way bacteria, or fungi are, so it is impossible to really “kill” them. However, medical research has created antiviral medications that can prevent viruses from entering host cells and limit the viral load in a person’s body, giving their immune system a better chance of overpowering the infection.

Some bacterial infections, like most sinus infections and even cases of bronchitis, can clear up on their own without antibiotics.

As a result, more doctors are choosing to wait and see if these mild bacterial infections clear up on their own before prescribing antibiotics to help prevent the development of drug-resistant pathogens.

Bacteria can cause infections in all different parts of your body, some that are more serious than others.

Common bacterial infections include:

  • Meningitis
  • Ear infections
  • Sinus Infections
  • Pneumonia
  • Urinary tract infection (UTI)
  • Respiratory tract disease
  • Skin infections, like Staph infections
  • Strep throat disease
  • Yeast infection
  • Lyme Disease
  • Pinkeye

Your doctor may not always prescribe antibiotics for mild sinus infections or UTIs. However, speaking with a healthcare professional is always vital if you have any concerns.

While your body may fight off a mild bacterial infection without antibiotics (people used to survive bacterial infections like scarlet fever and typhus before the invention of antibiotics), it is usually best not to let bacterial infections go unchecked.

For example, untreated Lyme and Strep infections can trigger autoimmune diseases, and untreated bacterial infections can spread to your blood and cause a life-threatening condition called sepsis.

The content on Doctor Alexa’s blog is reviewed by Advanced practice registered nurses or pharmacist and is intended for educational purposes only. This information should not be relied upon as professional medical counsel. Be sure to always consult with your physician about the dangers and benefits of any medication, treatment or procedure.

You shouldn’t wait to see the doctor for simple health needs.