When do I need antibiotics?

Antibiotics only treat infections caused by some bacteria.  They do not work on viral infections like:

  • Common cold (viral upper respiratory tract infection)
  • Sore throat (viral pharyngitis), unless it is “strep throat”
  • Cough (viral bronchitis)
  • Runny nose

Viruses also cause most earaches (middle ear infections) and sinusitis.

Taking antibiotics for viral infections will not:

  • Help you feel better
  • Keep you from spreading the illness

How can I treat my respiratory tract infection?

Healthy adults and children with viral infections will usually start to get better in a few days.  In the meantime, the following instructions will help you feel better and avoid passing the virus to others:

  • Drink plenty of fluids.
  • Rest as much as possible and try to stay home while you are ill.
  • Wash your hands frequently.
  • Talk to your pharmacist about over-the-counter medicines that can help relieve your symptoms.  Acetaminophen (for example, Tylenol ®) and ibuprophen (for example, Advil ®) can reduce the fever, aches, and pain that are often associated with colds and flu.

It can take several weeks to fully recover from a cold.  However, you should consider checking with your doctor if your illness is still getting worse after four days or you:

  • Got better then worse with an increased fever.
  • Have a recurrent fever over 38.5oC.
  • Have rapid breathing or trouble breathing.
  • Have severe pain or fever.

What can I do to reduce antibiotic resistance?

The best way to reduce antibiotic resistance is to:

  • Reduce antibiotic use:
    • Prevent colds and flu: Washing your hands frequently in cold and flu season can reduce the risk of infection by as much as 50%.  Staying away from others when you are sick reduces the spread of infection.
    • Ensure you and your children are up- to- date on your vaccinations: Vaccines prevent respiratory infections such as chickenpox, measles, and influenza.
  • Use antibiotics wisely
    • Take antibiotics exactly as prescribed: If you are prescribed antibiotics, follow the dose and schedule instructions exactly.
    • Treat viral infections responsibly: Don’t pressure your doctor for antibiotics when you have a viral infection.  Instead, talk to your doctor or pharmacist about ways to feel better when you are ill.  There are medicines you can take to relieve your symptoms.

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