Health Tip: Taking an Antibiotic
Antibiotics can help you recover from a bacterial infection, but they offer no medical benefit against viruses.
Prescribing an antibiotic for an viral illness, in fact, isn't a good idea. Overuse of these medicines can make the bacteria in your body resistant to the drugs. The medicines then lose their effectiveness, making a bacterial illness harder to treat.
The American Academy of Family Physicians lists these illnesses that are often treated with an antibiotic, and a few that don't need the medication:
- Colds and flu are caused by viruses, and won't respond to antibiotics.
- Cough and bronchitis are usually caused by viruses. However, people with chronic lung problems or those who have a cough that lasts a long time may need antibiotics.
- While a regular sore throat is caused by a virus, strep throat is a bacterial infection that requires antibiotic treatment.
- Ear and sinus infections should be evaluated by a doctor, since many are caused by bacteria, while others are viral.
Health Tip: Understanding Antibiotic Resistance
Antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria mutate and make certain medications ineffective in preventing bacterial infections.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services offers these suggestions for preventing antibiotic-resistant infections:
- Talk to your doctor about whether you actually need an antibiotic to treat a particular illness.
- Don't take antibiotics when they are not helpful. For example, antibiotics will not treat infections caused by viruses, including the common cold and the flu.
- Always take antibiotics as prescribed by your doctor. Don't skip any dose, and don't stop taking them early, even if you feel better.
- Never "save" antibiotics to take later. Never re-use them for a different illness.
- Never take an antibiotic that was prescribed to another person.