Can You Get Antibiotics Over the Counter?

    Some antibiotics are available over the counter, but most require a prescription from a doctor. Antibiotics are a class of medications used to treat bacterial infections. They are not used for viral infections. Antibiotics work by attacking and killing bacteria. There are many different types of antibiotics that target different bacterial infections.

    Some medications are available over the counter prior to needing antibiotics. For example, the over the counter medication, Azo, is often used to treat urinary tract infection symptoms. Sometimes this medication is enough to keep the symptoms at bay, but sometimes antibiotics are needed to treat and cure the infection.

    Which antibiotics are available over the counter? Let us take a closer look.

    • Book on our free mobile app or website.

      Our doctors operate in all 50 states and same day appointments are available every 15 minutes.

    • See a doctor, get treatment and a prescription at your local pharmacy.

    • Use your health insurance just like you normally would to see your doctor.

    Are There Antibiotics You Can Get Over the Counter?

    Yes, there are antibiotics that you can get over the counter. These can be found at any local drug store or grocery store pharmacy. That said, only certain types of antibiotics, such as topical antibiotics, are available over the counter. Stronger antibiotics, such as oral antibiotics, require a prescription from a doctor.

    Antibiotics can be given via different routes in and on the body. There are invasive and less invasive ways to administer antibiotics.

    The four types of antibiotic administration routes include: 

    • Topical (some over the counter availability)
    • Oral (prescription required)
    • Intravenous (IV) (prescription required)
    • Intramuscular (IM) (prescription required)

    Less invasive administration routes of antibiotics include topical routes. Many topical antibiotics are available over the counter. These antibiotics are creams that are spread onto the skin to treat minor scrapes, wounds, acne, and burns.

    Topical over-the-counter antibiotics include:

    • Neosporin (bacitracin/neomycin/polymyxin B)
    • Polysporin (bacitracin/polymyxin B)
    • Neosporin Plus (neomycin/polymyxin B/pramoxine)
    • Proactiv/Clearskin (Benzoyl peroxide)

    Topical antibiotics also have generic brands available and have been manufactured into a cream or ointment that can be directly applied to the skin.

    There are also stronger topical antibiotics that require a doctor’s prescription, such as Mupirocin. These are used to treat more severe infections that are not responding to over-the-counter topical antibiotics.

    Oral, intravenous, and intramuscular antibiotics are not available over the counter. Oral antibiotics are taken by mouth and are used to treat bacterial infections.

    Some common bacterial infections that require oral antibiotics include:

    • Urinary tract infections
    • Strep throat
    • Certain Sexually Transmitted Infections
    • Severe skin infections, also known as Cellulitis
    • Dental infections
    • Pneumonia

    Do I Need a Prescription For Antibiotics?

    There are many topical antibiotic creams used for minor cuts, scrapes and burns that do not require a prescription. If you are looking to discuss stronger topical or oral antibiotics, you will need a prescription from a doctor.

    What are the Most Commonly Prescribed Antibiotics?

    There are over 100 types of antibiotics, each with different indications for treatment. Some common antibiotics prescribed include:

    • Ceftriaxone
    • Piperacillin/tazobactam
    • Levofloxacin
    • Amoxicillin
    • Azithromycin
    • Clindamycin
    • Metronidazole

    All antibiotics have risks of use as well as benefits.  Antibiotics can cause other problems, including gut microbiome disturbance, side effects such as vomiting, and can interact with other medicines you take. Because of the complexity of oral antibiotic use, it is no surprise that you need a prescription from a medical doctor. 

    Can I Get Antibiotics Without Seeing a Doctor?

    You can not get oral antibiotics, such as amoxicillin and penicillin, without talking to a doctor. That said, you are able to get antibiotics without seeing a doctor in person.

    A video or phone call is a great way to get prescribed antibiotics from the comfort of your home if it is felt to be needed. During an online consultation, a doctor can diagnose your infection and determine an appropriate treatment method, including antibiotics if necessary. Your antibiotic prescription will be electronically sent to your local pharmacy for pick up.

    • Book on our free mobile app or website.

      Our doctors operate in all 50 states and same day appointments are available every 15 minutes.

    • See a doctor, get treatment and a prescription at your local pharmacy.

    • Use your health insurance just like you normally would to see your doctor.

    Why Do You Need a Prescription For Oral Antibiotics?

    • Overuse and misuse of antibiotics. Taking oral antibiotics unnecessarily can cause harm to people and encourage bacteria to mutate into “super” bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics. Doctors are trained to know when it is appropriate and necessary to prescribe antibiotics
    • Different antibiotics treat different bacteria, and you would need to know which bacteria you were treating in order to correctly purchase an antibiotic over the counter, something best left to a licensed physician to determine.
    • Antibiotics have side effects and may interact with other medications and medical conditions. A physician can ensure you are not taking an antibiotic that is dangerous for you. They will also monitor any side effects you may experience to ensure you are not having a negative reaction to the medication.

    Read: Everything You Need to Know About Antibiotic Resistance

    • Book on our free mobile app or website.

      Our doctors operate in all 50 states and same day appointments are available every 15 minutes.

    • See a doctor, get treatment and a prescription at your local pharmacy.

    • Use your health insurance just like you normally would to see your doctor.

    Getting Antibiotics Online

    PlushCare’s primary care physicians can prescribe antibiotics online following a virtual consultation, if needed. You can book an appointment to speak with a board-certified physician about your symptoms. Your PlushCare doctor can help determine if antibiotic treatment is appropriate, and write you a prescription for the correct antibiotic if you qualify.

    You can book an appointment on our website, or download the PlushCare mobile app.

    Read More About Antibiotics

    • Request Antibiotics Online
    • Do I Really Need an Antibiotic?
    • Request Penicillin Online

    Medications are prescribed at the sole discretion of a PlushCare physician. Prescriptions for non-controlled substances can only be written after a medical evaluation. Scheduling an appointment does not guarantee that a medication can or will be prescribed.

    Most PlushCare articles are reviewed by M.D.s, Ph.Ds, N.P.s, nutritionists and other healthcare professionals. Click here to learn more and meet some of the professionals behind our blog. The PlushCare blog, or any linked materials are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice, nor is the information a substitute for professional medical expertise or treatment. For more information click here .

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