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There are two main categories that antibiotics fall into. Narrow-spectrum antibiotics, such as penicillin, amoxicillin and cephalexin, target a relatively small number of bacteria. They are able to clear up many infections while preserving more of the good bacteria throughout your body. Because they work on a smaller range, they are also less likely to promote antibiotic resistance.


  • Amoxicillin: Typically prescribed for ear infections and bacterial sinusitis.

  • Cephalexin: Marketed under the brand name Keflex, this is often prescribed for skin infections.

  • Penicillin: Often prescribed to treat strep throat.

Broad-spectrum antibiotics

Often referred to as “the big guns” by doctors, broad-spectrum antibiotics target a large number of bacteria. It’s the equivalent of dropping a nuclear warhead inside your body. Because broad-spectrum antibiotics kill more of the good bacteria along with the bad, they often cause digestive problems, diarrhea, and other symptoms.

Examples of broad-spectrum antibiotics are…

  • Azithromycin: Marketed under the brand name Zithromax or Z-Pak, this antibiotic is frequently used to treat pneumonia and pertussis (whooping cough). Unfortunately, it is also widely prescribed for conditions which don’t warrant antibiotic therapy, such as bronchitis.

  • Amoxicillin plus clavulanate (Augmentin): This beefed-up combo of antibiotics is often prescribed for ear infections and bacterial sinusitis.

  • Ciprofloxacin: Often given for urinary tract infections to patients who don’t respond to other treatments.

  • Levofloxacin: A fluoroquinolone antibiotic that usually results in the death of the bacteria.  It can cause serious or disabling side effects, including tendon problems, nerve damage, serious mood or behavior changes or low blood sugar.

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