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What are the Pros and Cons of Taking Antibiotics for Pink Eye?

Anna T.
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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The main benefit of taking antibiotics for pink eye is that if the pink eye was the result of a bacterial infection, the antibiotics will likely get rid of the pink eye in a relatively short period of time. Antibiotics are able to effectively kill off any bacteria that cause infections, including pink eye. Sometimes antibiotics are over-prescribed, meaning that doctors occasionally prescribe them when they aren't actually needed. Using antibiotics for pink eye when the infection isn't bacterial in nature will likely do no more than kill off the good bacteria in a person's body, which is there to help fight off bad bacteria. If the good bacteria isn't there to fight away the bad bacteria, a person is often much more susceptible to other types of infections.

Another possible disadvantage of taking antibiotics for pink eye is that the antibiotics must be given in either eye drop or ointment form. Many people, particularly children, have a hard time using eye drops or any other type of topical eye medication because their eyes reflexively close when anything comes near them, which can severely limit the amount of medicine that actually manages to reach the eyes. For this reason, treating pink eye with antibiotics might be difficult and may take a long time to actually start working. Taking antibiotics orally for pink eye is often not recommended because in spite of the difficulty of getting the topical medicine into the eye, the chances of eliminating the pink eye are usually still greater with this method.

In order for a doctor to determine whether or not antibiotics for pink eye are needed, he will have to determine if the pink eye is a result of bacteria, allergies, or some sort of viral infection. Pink eye infections that are bacterial often cause lots of greenish-yellow discharge to form in and around the eyes. This discharge might stick together, making it difficult on occasion for people to open their eyes. When pink eye is viral, there may still be discharge coming from the eyes, but this discharge is often clear. People who have pink eye as a result of allergies will often display other allergy symptoms, such as itchy, watery eyes and runny noses.

Even though doctors normally do what they can to avoid prescribing antibiotics for pink eye when they are not needed, they still occasionally make mistakes. In most cases, a person should go ahead and take whatever medicine her doctor prescribes. If antibiotics are prescribed and the pink eye doesn't seem to respond to them, another doctor's visit may be necessary so symptoms can be reevaluated.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Anna T.
By Anna T.
Anna Thurman is a skilled writer who lends her talents to The Health Board. Her ability to research and present information in an engaging and accessible manner allows her to create content that resonates with readers across a wide range of subjects.
Discussion Comments
By ysmina — On Jul 09, 2014

There are advantages and disadvantages to using antibiotics. Anyone who has used them before knows it. Eye drops have their own disadvantages and tablets their own. It's a good idea to weigh the risks and benefits before deciding.

By literally45 — On Jul 08, 2014

I had to take antibiotics for pink eye once. The infection was very bad and there was no doubt that it was bacterial because of the awful colored discharge. I used eye drops for a while but they didn't work. So my doctor put me on antibiotics and the pink eye went away soon after that.

So antibiotics for pink eye are not always bad. I agree that everyone should just follow their doctor's recommendations.

By serenesurface — On Jul 08, 2014

Using antibiotic eye drops for pink eye is fine, but I don't think it's a good idea to use oral antibiotics for it. I'm not a doctor though, this is just my opinion.

From my experience, pink eye tends to go away on its own in about a week. It's also sometimes difficult to know the cause of pink eye. It may be bacteria, a virus or even allergies. Oral antibiotics are effective, but they have side effects. And like the article said over-use can lead to antibiotic resistance.

In my opinion, it's best to avoid oral antibiotics for pink eye unless the infection does not improve with antibiotic eye drops and home remedies such as using a hot chamomile tea compress. Then, the doctor may suggest taking antibiotic tablets. But using antibiotics unnecessarily and too soon will only have negative side effects on the body.

Anna T.
Anna T.
Anna Thurman is a skilled writer who lends her talents to The Health Board. Her ability to research and present information in an engaging and accessible manner allows her to create content that resonates with readers across a wide range of subjects.
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