A syringe used to administer vaccines, a type of prophylactic.
A prophylactic treatment is a medical treatment used to prevent the onset of a disease or other medical problem in a healthy patient at the time of treatment. A form of preventive medicine, prophylactic treatment can offer a very cost-effective way to preserve health. It can minimize the risk of taking medication because prophylaxis is generally safer and simpler than treating an active medical condition. Many types of prophylactic treatment are in common use. These treatments range from routine vaccinations to using post-exposure prophylactics to reduce the risk of contracting HIV/AIDS after exposure.
Over the years, prophylactic vaccination has gradually eradicated smallpox cases.
Vaccination is the most widespread form of prophylactic treatment. In determining whether or not to recommend such treatment, health officials consider factors such as the cost of producing and distributing the vaccine, the severity of the disease it is being protected against, and the risk factors, if any, associated with the vaccine. Modern vaccines are generally very safe, except for those few people who have an allergy to the underlying vaccine base, so this is usually not a concern. In the early days of preventive medicine, risk was an important factor, especially with diseases like smallpox, for which inoculation could cause illness.
People who have recurring migraines often take prophylactic medications.
Antibiotics are in some cases used as a prophylactic treatment against bacterial infections. Ciprofloxacin used to prevent potential anthrax spore infection in 2001 is an extreme example of this. Prophylactic use of antibiotics can be very risky as it can lead to a much higher level of drug resistance among bacteria and reduce the effectiveness of antibiotics, a problem that has been seen in some cases as a result of antibiotic use in animal populations. . These risks mean that antibiotics are used cautiously as a preventative measure, although they are still very useful in patients with lesions that are especially susceptible to infection or in patients about to undergo some forms of surgery.
Condoms are a form of sexual prophylaxis.
In other cases, prophylactic treatment may be provided after the patient has been exposed to an infectious agent, but before any symptoms appear, in an effort to allow the patient’s immune system a better chance of preventing infection. Post-exposure prophylaxis is most often used when dealing with very dangerous infections such as HIV/AIDS. A patient likely to have been exposed to this virus will often be put on a powerful course of antiretroviral medication in an attempt to prevent the development of a viral infection.