Skip to main content

What Are Antibiotics & How Do They Work? (6-7)





What are antibiotics?

Before we had antibiotics, it was hard to treat people when they were sick with an infection caused by bacteria. Some people became very sick for many months. Sadly some even died. 

Scientists studied why people were getting so sick from bacterial infections. Eventually, they were successful in creating medicines to help treat bacterial infections. These medicines are called antibiotics.



 Maybe you’ve known someone who has taken antibiotics before. Children are often given antibiotics as a liquid. That’s because pills are hard to swallow. You may remember getting strawberry or banana-flavoured medicine. If the medicine was for a bacterial infection it would have been an antibiotic.

Antibiotics are important medicines that fight infections caused by bacteria. Here is what a bacteria might look like under a microscope.

Antibiotics do not work on viral infections

Antibiotics do not work for all infections. Viruses can also cause infections and antibiotics never work for those. This is because viruses and bacteria are very different. Antibiotics only work against bacteria. 

People catch viruses all the time such as when they have a cold, or flu, or most sore throats. Here is what a virus might look like under a microscope. 

If you get sick with an infection your doctor determines if it’s a bacteria, a virus or something else making you sick. If it's bacteria making you sick, your doctor may give you antibiotics. If it's a virus making you sick, your doctor will not give you antibiotics, because antibiotics do not work against viruses. If you have a virus, your doctor may tell you how to feel better by resting and drinking fluids.

Antibiotics can be in the form of pills or liquids. Some names for antibiotics are penicillin or amoxicillin. 





So, for about 100 years antibiotics have been saving millions of lives. 

How do antibiotics work?

Antibiotics are specially designed to get rid of specific types of bacteria. The doctor chooses the best antibiotic for each patient depending on which bacteria they have been infected with.

Antibiotics can take a few days to start treating infections caused by bacteria. It is important to take antibiotics exactly as the doctor has said. The pharmacist explains how antibiotics are to be taken. There are important instructions that have to be followed. For example you may have to take the antibiotics at certain times of the day. Or with food. 

 Watch the videos from the Provincial Health Services Authority to learn more about antibiotics. After watching the videos, test your knowledge with the quiz and earn vaccines!

These lessons were developed in partnership with the BC Centre for Disease Control’s Community Antimicrobial Stewardship Team.

All lessons & quizzes are free!

 This was just one of the lessons in our Antibiotics section. There are over 60 lessons on Kids Boost Immunity just like this one on a variety of subjects. Each lesson includes a quiz, and every time a student scores 80% or higher on a quiz, we will donate life-saving vaccines to UNICEF Canada. Sign up now!

To see other sample lessons, click here.

  Sep 29, 2021