First of all, let’s define what antibiotics are. They are specific chemical substances, that can be derived from or are produced by living organisms. They are capable of inhibiting the life processes of other organisms.
Penicillin is an antibiotic that is used to treat a wide variety of bacterial infections, which can occur in the body. Alexander Fleming was the first to discover its qualities in 1928, purely by accident. Over the years, the family of antibiotics has grown a lot, but penicillin still remains a primary choice to treat for instance ear, nose and throat infections; also respiratory and urinary tract infections, and certain sexually transmitted diseases.
Penicillin is relatively non-toxic, has an excellent tissue penetration, is efficacious in the treatment of infections and is relatively inexpensive in comparison with other antibiotics. The newer forms of penicillin are resistant to stomach acid (for instance penicillin V), or have a broader spectrum.
Of course, there are also disadvantages to the use of penicillin. For instance, most of these antibiotic drugs are destroyed by gastric acids in the stomach. They tend to have a short duration of action, and because of this short half-life, penicillin must be administered at short intervals (usually around every 4 hours). Furthermore, the intake of penicillin can cause a drug hypersensitivity: some patients (around 10%) can get an allergy by taking the antibiotic. If given intramuscularly, the treatment may cause pain.
How does penicillin work? It prevents bacteria from using a substance that is necessary for the maintenance of the bacteria’s outer cell wall. The bacteria will, as a result, die off.
Penicillin works best on an empty stomach (either one hour before meals or two hours later), with a glass of water. The water helps to prevent the medicine from irritating the delicate linings of your esophagus and stomach. Penicillin works best when there is a constant amount of it circulating in the patient’s body, so it is important not to forget to take your dose!
Although penicillin is safe for most people, there can occur some side effects:
Allergic Reactions: these occur most frequently. About 3 to 10% of the general population is allergic to penicillin. Once a person is allergic to penicillin, it is likely that he or she will be allergic to all other antibiotics.
The most severe allergic reaction is anaphylaxis. Difficult word, but it causes skin rash, hives, itching, a difficulty in breathing, shock and even may cause unconsciousness. An early sign of this is a feeling of warmth and flushing.
If you should feel such symptoms, please consult a doctor immediately.
Mild diarrhea, vomiting, headache, vaginal itching and discharge, sore mouth or tongue, white patches in the mouth are also rather common when taking penicillin. These symptoms usually go away as the body adjusts to the drug and they don’t require medical treatment unless they continue or are very bothersome.
Severe abdominal or stomach cramps, combined with bloody diarrhea occur on rare occasions. See a doctor immediately if you experience these.