Use antibiotics only as directed

Health professionals may recommend taking antibiotics to treat bacterial infections that:

  • could take too long to clear without treatment
  • are unlikely to clear up without antibiotics
  • could infect others unless treated
  • carry a risk of more serious complications.

You should always talk to your health professional about the treatment you might need when you are unwell.

When you are prescribed an antibiotic

  • It is important to take antibiotics in the correct way. Taking them in other ways may reduce how well they work. Follow the instructions given to you by your doctor and on the leaflet that comes with the antibiotic you are prescribed.
  • Your doctor will prescribe the dose and duration of antibiotics needed to fight your infection. This is called a course.  
  • Make sure you understand what your doctor has told you. Ask if you are unsure. 
  • Taking the whole course prescribed by your doctor reduces the chance that some bacteria will survive and become resistant.
  • Finishing the course does not always mean finishing the packet of antibiotics. The dose and duration prescribed by your doctor will not always match the amount of antibiotics provided to you in the packet.  

Dispose of leftover antibiotics safely

  • Don’t share antibiotics with another person. This is important because the type of antibiotic may not be the right one to kill the bacteria causing their infection.
  • Storage of expired and unwanted medicines at home can be dangerous for a number of reasons:
    • they may get into the wrong hands (e.g. young children and pets) and cause harm or poisoning
    • cause confusion to someone who is taking multiple medicines
    • they may no longer be effective.
  • Disposing of unwanted antibiotics in the sink, toilet or bin can lead to environmental damage.
  • There is a free and convenient way to dispose of your unwanted medicine at your local pharmacy. More information about the safe disposal of left-over antibiotics is available through the Return Unwanted Medicines program.
  • NPS MedicineWise provides important guidance on the correct use of antibiotics.
Last updated: 
8 November 2017