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A prophylaxis is a measure taken to maintain health and prevent the spread of disease. Antibiotic prophylaxis is the focus of this article and refers to the use of antibiotics to prevent infections.


Antibiotics are well known for their ability to treat infections. But some antibiotics also are prescribed to prevent infections. This usually is done only in certain situations or for people with particular medical problems. For example, people with abnormal heart valves have a high risk of developing heart valve infections after even minor surgery. This happens because bacteria from other parts of the body get into the bloodstream during surgery and travel to the heart valves. To prevent these infections, people with heart valve problems often take antibiotics before having any kind of surgery, including dental surgery.
Antibiotics also may be prescribed to prevent infections in people with weakened immune systems, such as people with AIDS or people who are having chemotherapy treatments for cancer. But even healthy people with strong immune systems may occasionally be given preventive antibiotics-if they are having certain kinds of surgery that carry a high risk of infection, or if they are traveling to parts of the world where they are likely to get an infection that causes diarrhea, for example.
In all of these situations, a physician should be the one to decide whether antibiotics are necessary. Unless a physician says to do so, it is not a good idea to take antibiotics to prevent ordinary infections.
Because the overuse of antibiotics can lead to resistance, drugs taken to prevent infection should be used only for a short time.


Among the drugs used for antibiotic prophylaxis are amoxicillin (a type of penicillin) and fluoroquinolones such as ciprofloxacin (Cipro) and trovafloxacin (Trovan). These drugs are available only with a physician's prescription and come in tablet, capsule, liquid, and injectable forms.

Recommended dosage

The recommended dosage depends on the type of antibiotic prescribed and the reason it is being used. For the correct dosage, check with the physician or dentist who prescribed the medicine or the pharmacist who filled the prescription. Be sure to take the medicine exactly as prescribed. Do not take more or less than directed, and take the medicine only for as long as the physician or dentist says to take it.


If the medicine causes nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea, check with the physician or dentist who prescribed it as soon as possible. Patients who are taking antibiotics before surgery should not wait until the day of the surgery to report problems with the medicine. The physician or dentist needs to know right away if problems occur.
For other specific precautions, see the entry on the type of drug prescribed such as penicillins or fluoroquinolones.

Side effects

Antibiotics may cause a number of side effects. For details, see entries on specific types of antibiotics. Anyone who has unusual or disturbing symptoms after taking antibiotics should get in touch with his or her physician.


Whether used to treat or to prevent infection, antibiotics may interact with other medicines. When this happens, the effects of one or both of the drugs may change or the risk of side effects may be greater. Anyone who takes antibiotics for any reason should inform the physician about all the other medicines he or she is taking and should ask whether any possible interactions may interfere with drugs' effects. For details of drug interactions, see entries on specific types of antibiotics.

Key terms

AIDS — Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome. A disease caused by infection with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). In people with this disease, the immune system breaks down, opening the door to other infections and some types of cancer.
Antibiotic — A medicine used to treat infections.
Chemotherapy — Treatment of an illness with chemical agents. The term is usually used to describe the treatment of cancer with drugs.
Immune system — The body's natural defenses against disease and infection.


disease prevention; called also preventive treatment.
dental prophylaxis oral prophylaxis.
oral prophylaxis cleaning of the teeth by a dentist or dental hygienist, including removal of plaque, materia alba, calculus, and extrinsic stains; done as a preventive measure for control of gingivitis. Called also dental prophylaxis.


, pl.


(prō'fi-lak'sis, -sēz),
Prevention of disease or of a process that can lead to disease.
[Mod. L. fr. G. pro-phylassō, to guard before, take precaution]


/pro·phy·lax·is/ (-fĭ-lak´sis) prevention of disease; preventive treatment.


(prō′fə-lăk′sĭs, prŏf′ə-)
n. pl. prophy·laxes (-lăk′sēz′)
Prevention of or protective treatment for disease.


Etymology: Gk, prophylax, advance guard
prevention of or protection against disease, often involving the use of a biological, chemical, or mechanical agent to destroy or prevent the entry of infectious organisms. prophylactic, adj.


Medtalk A medical maneuver intended to prevent disease. See Chemoprophylaxis, HIV prophylaxis, Malaria prophylaxis.


, pl. prophylaxes (prō'fi-lak'sis, -sēz)
1. Prevention of disease or of a process that can lead to disease.
2. In dentistry, extrinsic stain removal and sealing procedures done to maintain or improve oral health.
[Mod. L. fr. G. pro-phylassō, to guard before, take precaution]


from the Greek, to guard or prevent beforehand. The attempt to prevent a condition or disease by, for example, immunization, antibiotics for dental work in certain cardiac conditions, low molecular weight heparin to prevent deep vein thrombosis.


disease prevention


, pl. prophylaxes (prō'fi-lak'sis, -sēz)
Removal of dental plaque, extrinsic stains, and coronal polish.
[Mod. L. fr. G. pro-phylassō, to guard before, take precaution]

prophylaxis (prō´filak´sis),

n the prevention of disease.
prophylaxis, oral (adult/child),
n a series of procedures where plaque, calculus, and stain are removed from the teeth. This procedure is not the same as coronal polishing because the clinician can work subgingivally if needed. Only a licensed dental hygienist or dental professional is qualified to determine the need for oral prophylaxis and to perform the procedure. The colloquial term is
prophy. See also coronal polishing.


prevention of disease; preventive treatment.

dental prophylaxis
scaling and polishing teeth carried out regularly to prevent and control peridontal disease.

Patient discussion about prophylaxis

Q. Is there something I could do in order to prevent headaches? I have headaches often and somebody told me that there're steps to be taken in order to prevent headaches so often... Please help...

A. I just read your question on headaches. I have them occasionally as well. I don't like to take over the counter medication for headaches, so I rely on herbal supplemnts. You are ayoung man so I'm assuming you are very healthy. This herbal supplement shouldn't hurt you. It's very safe. I take at least 2 Valerian root capsules before going to bed. It relaxes your body abd it helps to eliminate headeaches.It also lowers the blood pressure which can sometimes cause headaches. Be sure you rule out any oraganic problems which can also cause headaches. You can find Valerian root at any health food/ organic markets.Also look at your diet MSG in food gives me headaches as well. I can always tell if it's present in foods right after I eat something processed. I stick with whole foods and I do yoga which helps as well. Let me know how if this works.

Q. How to prevent diverticulitis? I am a 43 year old man. I just had colonoscopy and my Doctor said I have diverticulosis and am at risk in developing diverticulitis. How can I prevent developing diverticulitis?

A. You have Diverticulosis, which means you have diverticulas (small pouches) on your digestive system. These diverticula are permanent and will not go away. No treatment has been found to prevent complications of diverticular disease. Diet high in fiber increases stool bulk and prevents constipation, and theoretically may help prevent further diverticular formation or worsening of the diverticular condition. Some doctors recommend avoiding nuts, corn, and seeds which can plug diverticular openings and cause diverticulitis. Whether avoidance of such foods is beneficial is unclear. If you develop unexplained fever, chills or abdominal pain, you should notify your doctor immediately since it could be a complication of diverticulitis.

Q. How to prevent Hemorrhoids? My brother is suffering from Hemorrhoids. I am very worried about getting them to and want to know how can I prevent them?

A. it's time to change to a healthier with fibers and vegetables.avoid causes like: Increased straining during bowel movements,portal hypertension, Obesity and Excessive consumption of alcohol or caffeine.

More discussions about prophylaxis
References in periodicals archive ?
6) The document went on to state, "Patients with joint replacements who are having invasive procedures or who have other infections are at increased risk of hematogenous seeding of their prosthesis," (6) and "Given the potential adverse outcomes and cost of treating infected joint replacements, the AAOS recommends that clinicians consider antibiotic prophylaxis for joint replacement patients with one or more risk factors prior to any invasive procedure that may cause bacteremia.
The use of perioperative antibiotic prophylaxis is a well-established practice that has been shown to decrease the incidence of postcesarean endometritis.
Once the investigation was complete (October 20, 2001), DOH narrowed the criteria for antibiotic prophylaxis to those met by the 12 persons who directly handled the contaminated letter and recommended that all others discontinue antibiotics.
Optimising secondary antibiotic prophylaxis is necessary to improve ARF and RHD outcomes, especially in settings where surgical options are not available.
Study Details Antibiotic Prophylaxis for Prevention of Febrile Urinary Tract Infections in Children with Vesicoureteral Reflux: A Subgroup Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials (#MP44-04): Researchers from Federal University of Juiz de Fora, University of Sao Paulo and State University of Feira de Santana in Brazil searched
A prospective randomized trial of 1-day versus 3-day antibiotic prophylaxis for transrectal ultrasound guided prostate biopsy.
The recommendations that routine antibiotic prophylaxis is unnecessary before IUD insertion and that the copper IUD may be inserted up to 5 days after intercourse to prevent unwanted pregnancy are classified as level A, which means that they are supported by good and consistent scientific evidence, ACOG said.
Although antibiotic prophylaxis is most commonly relied upon, other measures also reduce the risk of infection.
These studies demonstrated that post-exposure vaccination enhanced the protection afforded by antibiotic prophylaxis alone," said Fuad El-Hibri, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Emergent BioSolutions Inc.
We asked all coworkers, patients, and visitors who had spent > 1 hour at her workplace during the preceding 2 weeks to report for an interview; at the interview, they were offered antibiotic prophylaxis.
Sixteen patients were identified in whom once daily gentamicin dosing was used as part of an antibiotic prophylaxis regimen in patients with types II and III open tibial shaft fractures.
It is interesting that a variety of antibiotic prophylaxis measures were used by the site investigators who participated," added Jeanne Poole, MD, National Principal Investigator for the REPLACE Registry.

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