I know it’s illegal but whenever I get antibiotics from the doctor I save a few and give them to friends or coworkers who don’t have insurance so that when cold season comes they might be able to shorten their illness

That is not good- that’s not quite how antibiotics work.

Antibiotics kill some bacteria, but don’t manage to kill other bacteria. Just like when you get a particular sickness (or a vaccination), your body can protect you from future infections, any bacteria that came into contact with the antibiotic is protected from future doses of that antibiotic. Bacteria are very virulent breeders, so they spawn more resistant bacteria.

If you take the full dose of antibiotics, your natural antibodies can deal with the cells that are resistant while the medicine kills off the bacteria that isn’t resistant. If you don’t take the full course of antibiotics, then your body has to deal with both the resistant and the non-resistant strains of bacteria, and it can become overwhelming. Also, most bacteria are able to pass on genes between still-living cells, so that previously non-resistant strains become resistant, and you have inadvertently cultivated a stronger strain of bacteria.

Furthermore, colds and the flu are viral infections, so antibiotics don’t work against them anyway. The best protection against viral infections are vaccinations, as there are not many viruses that we have developed anti-viral medication against, once you already have the disease. If there are anti-viral medications, it is even more important that you take the full dose of the medication, because anti-viral medication is even harsher against the body than antibacterial medication is.

How antibiotics work

How antiviral medication works

Spread this around; antibiotics are not candy

To put it shortly: antibiotics don’t do shit for the cold. You need to take the entire bottle that is prescribed to you. People not doing that is how antibiotic resistant infections crop up. People like OP are literally why diseases like MRSA exist.

OP shouldn’t feel bad about good intentions but this is really dangerous. There’s also the risk that your friends are allergic to the specific type of antibiotics you give them.

things that a better-off person can do for their sick less-well-off friends that don’t involve breeding superbacteria through misue of antibiotics:

  • Buy them cold medicine 
  • Buy them cough drops
  • Buy them fancy tissues with lotion
  • Make them too much soup to eat in one go and freeze half for later
  • Find them a low-cost clinic and accompany them there
  • Tell them you are giving them their day’s wages and they are staying home Friday/Monday and then do.
  • Go to their house. Wash the dishes, take out the garbage, walk the dog, scoop the cat or just plain change the whole litter box, clean the bathtub and mom voice them until they take a hot shower or steam their head.
  • if they have asthma or bronchitis and are out of inhaler but you have a half-full one, that is a thing you can sanitize and share.
  • ditto palliative prescription medication like “I have half a bottle of lidocaine gargle, you want it?” “I am bringing you the rest of my Robitussin with codeine” “here harvest some ibuprofen from my giant bottle of 1,000 ibuprofen”

I feel like some of this should have been covered in high school health class. It would do a lot to combat misuse of antibiotics. Superbacteria is really dangerous for everyone but is particularly bad for people with multiple antibiotic allergies and will lead to hospital stays for IV antibiotics of kinds they can take.

It’s really, really important to know how antibiotics work. I taught university students in an intro biology lab for two years and one of the things I really tried to emphasize was how antibiotics and antibiotic resistance works. To stress the importance I asked some variant of “how do antibiotics work” on three weekly quizzes in a row and I was still getting wrong answers at the end! Though, far fewer, thankfully.

Also, I would recommend against antibiotic soaps and whatnot, for similar reasons. Use alcohol or hand sanitizer if you want to kill bacteria. I can’t imagine there’s any bacterium in existence that’s still vulnerable to the antibiotics in those products, but just in case!

But, btw, I would like to point out that the VAST majority of antibiotic misuse is agricultural, when large factory farms pre-medicate their cattle with large and constant doses of antibiotics. The USA is particularly guilty of this, especially as it allows big ag companies to keep animals in much more crowded and unhealthy conditions than they could get away with otherwise.

Never use antibiotics for a simple cold. To much use of antibiotic can lead to the creation of resistant bacteria, and you really don’t want that when you have more serious infection.

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