Is it okay to stop taking an antibiotic?
February 16, 2015 8:44 AM   Subscribe

I always thought that it was a bad idea to stop an antibiotic before the full course is finished, both because it can make you sick again and because of antibiotic resistance. But I just spent the last couple of days in the hospital and the doctor didn't continue my prescription (I only took a couple of doses, yesterday).

I'm wondering if I should call to see if I can continue taking the medication today. I've already missed one dose. When I left, the nurse explained that hospitals often prescribe short-term antibiotics to help ward off infections, and she didn't seem concerned at all. Now I'm concerned, though, that it might be bad not to continue. My white blood cell count was very high when they first tested, and after the antibiotics, went down. If I did have an infection, wouldn't it be bad to stop taking the prescription early? It's not clear what was wrong with me (at first they thought appendicitis and planned an appendectomy, but pain got better after antibiotic; may also have been food poisoning). I think they first prescribed the antibiotic because they were planning my surgery, but one of the doctors also initially said it was to see if it treated the apparent appendicitis.

I'm having trouble reaching the doctor because of the holiday. Trying to figure out how urgent it might be for me to start antibiotics again, or if I should just wait to talk to the doctor tomorrow. I have a low-grade fever and still don't feel good, though not the severe pain/vomiting that had taken me to the hospital originally. Should I go to urgent care to get a new prescription?
posted by three_red_balloons to Health & Fitness (10 answers total)
I would keep taking it until you can ask your doctor about it. (much less possible harm in continuing to take it (basically none)vs. what can go wrong if you stop taking it too early(getting sick again, antibiotic resistance))
posted by sexyrobot at 8:52 AM on February 16, 2015

To clarify, they didn't give me a prescription to keep taking it, so I can't keep taking it until I get that.
posted by three_red_balloons at 8:56 AM on February 16, 2015

You should always take the full course of antibiotics prescribed to you unless otherwise directed by the person that prescribed them to you. If for some reason you think there's medical reason not to, seek a second opinion from a professional.

If you miss a dose, take the full amount, extending the treatment unless otherwise instructed by the doctor or pharmacy instructions. That is, if you have a twice a day five day prescription and you miss the morning dose of day 3, you would take the extra dose in the morning of day 6.
posted by Candleman at 8:57 AM on February 16, 2015 [2 favorites]

It sounds like they started antibiotics empirically because they thought you had appendicitis, but then after they observed you in the hospital and determined you didn't have appendicitis the antibiotics were stopped.

You can call your doctor to check and see if they meant to continue antibiotics on discharge, but if they decided you didn't have an infection, you probably don't need them. I recommend the only person you should talk to about this is someone who knows or has access to what happened during your hospital stay.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 8:58 AM on February 16, 2015 [22 favorites]

Sorry if I haven't been clear. I would like to take the antibiotic, however, the hospital only gave me a couple of doses by I.V. They did not give me a prescription to continue taking it when I left the hospital.
posted by three_red_balloons at 8:58 AM on February 16, 2015

What was the drug?

Call again and ask to speak with the doctor on call.
posted by grouse at 9:01 AM on February 16, 2015

It is OK to stop taking an antibiotic if it wasn't necessary in the first place. Sometimes this is not apparent until after the fact, so you get antibiotics up front while your workup is ongoing.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 9:01 AM on February 16, 2015 [17 favorites]

If that's the case, then in all probability that's all the antibiotic they felt you needed. I would call for clarification though.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:01 AM on February 16, 2015

When I left, the nurse explained that hospitals often prescribe short-term antibiotics to help ward off infections, and she didn't seem concerned at all.

This is 100% true - similar thing happened to me. I wouldn't sweat this at all. If you want extra confirmation call your doctor.
posted by Toddles at 9:09 AM on February 16, 2015

I'm almost positive the course they gave you through an IV was on a "as needed" basis, and is different from the kind that people need to take for 10 days.

So the policy of "finish all your antibiotics" does still apply here...but fortunately, you finished them all at the hospital. No need for more...
posted by hal_c_on at 9:12 AM on February 16, 2015 [2 favorites]

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