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 Fact Sheets

Antibiotics aren't always the answer

Antibiotics Aren’t Always the Answer 
Fact sheet with information about the benefits, risks of side effects, and antibiotic resistance when taking antibiotics and when they are and aren’t needed. In a print-only format.

Antibiotics Aren’t Always the Answer [PDF – 840 KB]
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Matte Articles

Antibiotics Aren’t Always The Answer

CDC Urges Public To Be Antibiotics Aware

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) encourages patients and families to Be Antibiotics Aware by learning about safe antibiotic use. Each year in the United States, at least 2 million people get infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria. At least 23,000 die as a result.

Antibiotic resistance, one of the most urgent threats to the public’s health, occurs when bacteria develop the ability to defeat the drugs designed to kill them.

What Do Antibiotics Treat?

Pharmacist reading prescription on bottle

When you get a prescription for antibiotics, follow your doctor’s instructions carefully.

Antibiotics are critical tools for treating a number of common infections, such as pneumonia, and for life-threatening conditions including sepsis. Antibiotics are only needed for treating certain infections caused by bacteria.

What Don’t Antibiotics Treat?

Antibiotics do not work on viruses, such as colds and flu, or runny noses, even if the mucus is thick, yellow or green. Antibiotics also won’t help some common bacterial infections including most cases of bronchitis, many sinus infections, and some ear infections.

What Are The Side Effects of Antibiotics?

Any time antibiotics are used, they can cause side effects and lead to antibiotic resistance. When antibiotics aren’t needed, they won’t help you, and the side effects could still hurt you. Common side effects range from things like rashes and yeast infections to severe health problems. More serious side effects include Clostridium difficile infection (also called C. difficile or C. diff), which causes diarrhea that can lead to severe colon damage and death.

If you need antibiotics, take them exactly as prescribed. Patients and families can talk to their healthcare professional if they have any questions about their antibiotics, or if they develop side effects, especially diarrhea, since that could be C. difficile, which needs to be treated.

Can I Feel Better Without Antibiotics?

Patients and families can ask their healthcare professional about the best way to feel better while their body fights off the virus. Respiratory viruses usually go away in a week or two without treatment.

How Can I Stay Healthy?

Hand-washing germs from hands

Regular hand-washing can go a long way toward protecting you from germs.

We can all stay healthy and keep others healthy by cleaning our hands, covering our coughs, staying home when sick, and getting recommended vaccines, for the flu, for example.

Antibiotics save lives. When a patient needs antibiotics, the benefits outweigh the risks of side effects and antibiotic resistance. Improving the way we take antibiotics helps keep us healthy now, helps fight antibiotic resistance, and ensures that life-saving antibiotics will be available for future generations.

To learn more about antibiotic prescribing and use, visit

Antibiotics Aren’t Always The Answer – Print version [PDF – 139 KB]


A Commitment to Our Patients About Antibiotics

A Commitment to Our Patients About Antibiotics

Written public commitments in support of antibiotic stewardship that are placed in examination rooms have been shown to reduce inappropriate antibiotic prescriptions. These posters can also facilitate patient communication about appropriate antibiotic use. We encourage you to add your healthcare facility logo, healthcare professional photo or signature to any of these posters. Print the posters via your office printers, or send to a professional printer, and post in patient examination rooms.

Print only version in color 8.5 x 11 [PDF – 1 page]

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Prescription Pads

Static Clings and Sticker Sheets

Be Antibiotic Aware Smart Use, Best Care. window cling
Window Cling: Be Antibiotics Aware, Smart Use, Best Care

Print on white, thin plastic/vinyl film.

Adhere on any clean dry glass surface, like pharmacy windows and mirrors.

Print only 8.5 x 11 [PDF – 1 page]

Be Antibiotic Aware Smart Use, Best Care. counter cling

Counter Cling: Be Antibiotics Aware, Smart Use, Best Care
Print on white, thin plastic/vinyl film.

Adhere cling to any counter top.

Print only [PDF – 1 page]

Be Antibiotic Aware Smart Use, Best Care. stickers

Stickers: Be Antibiotics Aware, Smart Use, Best Care
Print only 8.5 x 11 [PDF – 1 page]

Compatible with full-sheet sticker paper (2”x4” label sheet) or standard pre-cut labels, such as Avery 8163.