Book an appointment Feather-communication-phone
antibiotics-over-the-counter

Blog Antibiotics

Antibiotics Over The Counter

writtenByWritten by: Tessa Chatham Registered Nurse
Tessa Chatham Registered Nurse

Tessa Chatham Registered Nurse

Tessa is a MSN prepared Registered Nurse with 10 years of critical care experience in healthcare. When not practicing clinical nursing, she enjoys academic writing and is passionate about helping those affected by medical aliments live healthy lives.

Read more posts by this author.
reviewBy Reviewed by: Dr. Maria Glukhovsky
Reviewer

Dr. Maria Glukhovsky

Dr. Maria Glukhovsky, Pharm.D. has been a pharmacist for the past 12 years, clinical educator across many disease states and a clinical instructor at Jefferson School of Pharmacy. She loves to educate her patients and everyone around her on the proper use of medications and top disease management techniques to improve health and wellbeing.

March 1, 2021 Read Time - 6 minutes

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 infection at bay, but sometimes antibiotics are needed to treat and cure the infection.

Which antibiotics are available over the counter? Let us’s 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.

PlushCare-App-Steps

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.

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:

  • Ear infections
  • Sinus infections
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Strep throat

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 for oral antibiotics you will need a prescription from a doctor.

Oral antibiotics are prescribed to either treat or prevent an infection. If being used to prevent infection, once it is clear that there is no infection, the antibiotic should be discontinued as directed by your physician

However, if a known source of infection is confirmed, then antibiotic treatment should be completed for the full course of antibiotic therapy. 

What is an antibiotic indication?

An antibiotic indication is the reason for antibiotic use, either an active infection or prevention against a suspected infection. Indications should be as specific as possible such as cellulitis, surgical prevention, community acquired pneumonia, or sepsis. Having a fever is not a good enough indication to begin antibiotic treatment. Other symptoms must coincide. 

Indications help doctors determine which antibiotic to prescribe. 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

Because of the complexity of oral antibiotics, 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. During an online consultation, the doctor will 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.

PlushCare-App-Steps

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. This is why oral antibiotics are prescribed by medical professionals. They are trained to know when it is appropriate and necessary to give 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 people with medical degrees.
  • Antibiotics have side effects and may interact with other medications and medical conditions. A medical professional 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


Can a pharmacist give you antibiotics?

In some states, pharmacists have prescriptive authority for a few conditions. Some prescriptions include minor ailments that would require antibiotics or other medications.

A pharmacist can prescribe medications for the following uncomplicated conditions:

  • Vaginal yeast infections
  • Urinary tract infection (uncomplicated)
  • Allergic conjunctivitis (“pink eye”)
  • Mild acne
  • Diaper rash
  • Eczema
  • Pinworms
  • Cold sores
  • Athletes foot

Read: How Long Does it Take Antibiotics to Work?


Pharmacists that have prescriptive authority have specialized training. In general, based on the state they practice in,  a pharmacist is required by a state board to meet 2 out of the 3 conditions below before prescribing antibiotics, independently. 

  • The pharmacist must earn a certification in critical care, ambulatory care, or oncology.
  • The pharmacist must complete at least 1-year residency program after pharmacy school
  • The pharmacist must prescribe under a physician for one year prior to solo prescriptive authority privilege.

Even with this training, a pharmacist may not feel comfortable prescribing antibiotics to you. They will often refer you to see a doctor. Usually a pharmacist distributes antibiotics but does not prescribe antibiotics. Sometimes pharmacists will double check with a doctor to make sure they prescribed the correct antibiotics for the written indication. Otherwise, pharmacists typically do not directly prescribe you oral antibiotics. 

  • 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.

PlushCare-App-Steps

Getting Antibiotics Online

PlushCare’s primary care physicians can prescribe antibiotics online following a virtual consultation. You can schedule an appointment to speak with a board-certified physician about your symptoms here. Your PlushCare provider can see if the right antibiotic treatment is for you and write you a prescription for the correct antibiotic.

You can book an appointment here, or download the free PlushCare mobile app. The average appointment lasts just 15 minutes and 97% of conditions are successfully treated on the first visit.


Read More About Antibiotics Over The Counter

Sources:

PlushCare is dedicated to providing you with accurate and trustworthy health information.

www.ahrq.gov. Nearly One in Four Antibiotic Prescriptions. Accessed on February 13, 2021 at https://www.ahrq.gov/news/newsroom/press-releases/antibiotic-prescriptions-study.html

John Hopkins Medicine. (2020). Health: Antibiotics. Retrieved from https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/antibiotics

www.rchsd.org. Are you overusing Antibiotics? Accessed on February 13, 2021 at https://www.rchsd.org/health-articles/the-danger-of-antibiotic-overuse/

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.

Our commitment to you.

PlushCare is dedicated to providing you with accurate and trustworthy health information.

  • right Tick Image

    Research from sources you can trust

  • right Tick Image

    Medical reviews by field experts

  • right Tick Image

    Frequent content updates

More to learn.

Antibiotics For Wound Infection

Antibiotics For Wound Infection

Get Antibiotics for Wound Infection Do you have a wound that doesn’t want to heal? It may be infected. Should…

Jennifer Nelson 3 minutes
Can You Get Levaquin Online?

Can You Get Levaquin Online?

Can you get Levaquin online? Yes! You can get a Levaquin prescription online with the assistance of an online doctor….

Sofie Wise 5 minutes
Can You Get a Cefuroxime Prescription Online?

Can You Get a Cefuroxime Prescription Online?

Can You Get a Cefuroxime Prescription Online? Driving to your doctor’s office when you believe you just need an antibiotic…

Jennifer Nelson 5 minutes