Ask the Pharmacist – Can I Share My Leftover Antibiotics With my Family?

I was prescribed antibiotics for a sinus infection several weeks ago. After just a few days of taking the prescription medication, I felt better so I stopped taking the pills.  Now my husband has an ear infection. Can I give him the rest of my antibiotics?

There is one rule you should always remember – never share prescription medication!    While you may think “sure, I get that with medications like pain meds or heart medication, but what’s the big deal about sharing antibiotics?”   There are several very important reasons you should never share your antibiotics with anyone.

  1. You are not a doctor.  It’s that simple. Only a healthcare provider can determine whether or not someone needs antibiotics.   By running tests and determining symptoms, a doctor will determine whether or not the illness is caused by bacteria, a virus, or other cause.   It’s true that some symptoms may appear to be that of a simple ear infection but it may actually be something else.  Antibiotics do not work for viral infections. It’s better to be safe than sorry and have a doctor determine what kind of medication is needed to treat any particular illness.
  2. You could be endangering their health.   Medications are prescribed to people based on their illness, and doctors will also take into account the patient’s medical history, other medications they may be on and other medical conditions they might have.  The medication you decide to share with them may actually be harmful and potentially dangerous for them.
  3. It’s probably not enough to help them.  The person you were going to share your antibiotics with needs a full prescription of antibiotics, not a few leftover pills.  By taking less than a full prescription of antibiotics the infection would not be fully treated and there is a strong chance the bacteria may become resistant to the antibiotic.

The only reason you would have leftover antibiotics is because you yourself did not follow your doctor’s orders.  You are prescribed medication for a reason, and that reason is to get you well again.  Be sure to always follow the full course of antibiotic treatments prescribed by your doctor. If you have concerns about your medication, such as any side effects or if you feel they are not working, speak to your doctor.

If you have questions about your prescription medications or any other medication, please contact Canada Online Health by calling toll free 1-800-399-DRUG (3784). One of representatives will be happy to assist you or transfer you to a licensed Canadian pharmacist for a free consultation.

This article contains medical information provided to help you better understand this particular medical condition or process, and may contain information about medication often used as part of a treatment plan prescribed by a doctor.  It is not intended to be used as either a diagnosis or recommendation for treatment of your particular medical situation.  If you are unwell, concerned about your physical or mental state, or are experiencing symptoms you should speak with your doctor or primary health care provider. If you are in medical distress please contact emergency services (such as 911). 

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