Article at a Glance
When cold and flu season hit, people are tempted to look at antibiotics as a quick fix to help them feel better. Unfortunately if you have a cold or flu, antibiotics will not work and could make things worse.
Colds, flu, most coughs and bronchitis, sore throats not caused by strep, most ear infections, and runny noses are usually caused by viruses; and antibiotics only kill bacteria. Antibiotics cannot cure a viral infection, keep others from catching it, or help you feel better. Only time and your body’s natural defenses can cure a viral infection.
In fact, taking antibiotics when you have a virus or when you don’t need them poses one of the world’s most significant public health risks. Overuse of antibiotics can cause antibiotic resistance; this is when antibiotics no longer work on disease-causing organisms. Diseases once easily treated by antibiotics become harder to treat, leading to longer-lasting illnesses, more doctor visits, extended hospital stays, and the need for more toxic medications. Some resistant infections can even cause death.
In addition, antibiotics not only kill harmful bacteria but also the good bacteria your body needs to function. This results in side effects like diarrhea, rashes, vomiting, yeast infections, allergic reactions, and nausea. These side effects can result in even more doctor visits and can leave you feeling miserable for longer. If you do not need the antibiotic, then it is better to avoid them.