Antibiotics: How long does the medicine take to work?

Most people will be prescribed antibiotics to treat bacterial infections, such as meningitis and strep throat – but when you’re suffering from an illness, how long does it take for the medication to work?

According to the NHS, antibiotics work by killing bacteria or preventing them from spreading – but they do not work for everything.

The medicine doesn’t treat viral infections such as colds and flu, and most coughs and sore throats.

Mild bacterial infections usually get better on their own, but antibiotics will be prescribed if the illness takes too long to clear, or if it carries the risk of more serious complications.

How long do I have to wait before antibiotics start working?
Most people will take a course of antibiotics at some point in their lives.

The medication gets to work immediately, but you may not feel the effects straight away.

It is common to be prescribed a seven to 14 day course of antibiotics, but in some cases shorter treatments work as well.

The severity of your illness will impact how quickly you will recover from antibiotic treatment.

Your GP will decide the correct antibiotic for you and the best length of treatment.

It is important to follow the guidelines directed on the packet or the patient information leaflet that accompanies the medicine, or as instructed by your doctor.

You should complete the full course of your treatment, even if you start feeling better, to avoid the risk of the infection returning.

This also helps to prevent antibiotic resistance.

You must speak to your healthcare provider first, before you stop taking your treatment early.

If you accidentally forget to take an antibiotic, you should take the medicine as soon as you remember and carry on with the treatment course as normal.

But if your next dose is soon, skip the missed one and continue your regular dosing schedule.

Never double the dose if you have missed an antibiotic, as you may increase the risk of harmful side effects, warns the NHS.

You should start feeling better towards the end of the course, but if you don’t see any signs of improvement, consult your GP or a pharmacist.