Question: Can I stop taking my antibiotic early

Answer: You should continue to take the full course of antibiotic therapy prescribed by your doctor, even if you are feeling better.  Antibiotics are medications used to treat infections caused by bacteria. When you start taking an antibiotic, some of the bacteria are killed, and you begin to feel better. If you stop taking the medication early, the surviving bacteria may develop antibiotic resistance by changing in a way that reduces or eliminates the effectiveness of antibiotics. This can give rise to a strain of bacteria which may be more difficult to treat in the future.

Antibiotic resistance is a growing concern worldwide. Antibiotic resistance can lead to:

  • longer illnesses
  • more complicated illnesses
  • more doctor visits
  • the use of stronger and more expensive drugs
  • more deaths caused by bacterial infections

To prevent antibiotic resistance, you and your healthcare provider should discuss the appropriate medicine for your illness. If you have a cold or the flu, illnesses caused by viruses, an antibiotic won’t be effective. Inappropriate use of antibiotics promotes the spread of antibiotic resistance.

When you are prescribed an antibiotic :

  • take all of the medication, even if you are feeling better
  • do not skip doses
  • do not save antibiotics for the next time you get sick
  • do not give your antibiotics to others
  • do not take antibiotics prescribed for someone else
  • tell your healthcare provider about troublesome side effects
Last Updated: November 21, 2013