If you have a cold and feel lousy, you probably want something to help you feel better. Many people assume they need an antibiotic, but antibiotics treat bacterial infections, and colds are caused by viruses. Taking an antibiotic unnecessarily not only won't help your cold but it can be dangerous to your health. It can raise your resistance to antibiotics, so that when you have a bacterial infection, it will be harder to treat. The medicine won't work as well - or not at all.
Ask any doctor if you should take antibiotics for the flu, and you’ll get a
weary shake of the head and a resounding no. “Viral infections like the
flu aren’t affected by antibiotics,” says William Schaffner, MD, chairman of
the department of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University’s School of
Medicine in Nashville. “You might as well take a placebo.”
Instead, antiviral medication can be used to treat the viral infections like
the flu. But that is a different type of medicine than antibiotics...
Antibiotics fight bacteria-related illnesses. Colds are caused by viruses. Antibiotics won't help a cold. They may even do you harm. While it's rare, some people may have an allergic reaction that can be fatal. Also, taking antibiotics unnecessarily has led to the growth of several strains of common bacteria that are now antibiotic resistant. For these and other reasons, it is important to only use antibiotics in situations where they are needed.
Antibiotics Do Treat Bacterial Infections
Antibiotics are needed to treat infections and illnesses that are caused by bacteria. For example, they are used to treat such illnesses as bacterial bronchitis, pneumonia, strep throat, bacterial ear infection,and pinkeye. When they are used properly, antibiotics can save people's lives.
Sometimes, a bacterial infection will follow a cold virus. Signs that you may have a bacterial infection after a cold are pain around the face and eyes that may worsen when bending over and coughing up thick yellow or green mucus. These symptoms may also occur with a cold. But if they last for more than a week or are severe, you may have a bacterial infection and need antibiotics.
Only your health care provider can prescribe antibiotics. So talk to your health care provider if you think you might need them.
According to the CDC, antibiotic resistance is one of the world's most pressing public health problems. When bacteria are repeatedly exposed to antibiotics - such as when antibiotics are used for the common cold or otherwise are taken too frequently - they may change in order to survive or become much more resistant to the drug, allowing them to completely repel the antibiotic. When that happens, your illness will linger with no signs of getting better. Or your illness could suddenly take a turn for the worse. You may have to seek emergency medical care and even be admitted to the hospital and have several different antibiotics administered through an IV. Those around you may also get the resistant bacteria and come down with a similar illness that is difficult to treat.