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Cold, Flu, & Cough Health Center

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Flu Treatment With Antibiotics

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Looking for an effective flu treatment and wondering if antibiotics will work? Antibiotics are medications that fight infections caused by bacteria, but the flu is cause by a virus.

Taking antibiotics when you have a virus may do more harm than good. Taking antibiotics when they are not needed increases your risk of getting an infection later that may resist antibiotic treatment.

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Why Won't Antibiotics Cure Cold or Flu?

Antibiotics only cure certain infections due to bacteria -- and if taken carelessly, you may get more serious health problems than you bargained for.

With any illness, it is critical to address the underlying cause, whether it's bacterial or viral. Antibiotics will not kill cold or flu viruses.

Should I Avoid Antibiotics Altogether?

Not at all. Antibiotics can save people's lives, and if you need them, you should get them as quickly as you can. Since only a doctor can prescribe antibiotics, this means that you should talk to your doctor if you think you might need them (as opposed to taking your friend's leftover antibiotics from last winter's illness, for example).

However, it is the grave over-reliance and inappropriate use of antibiotics that have contributed to the global antibiotic resistance crisis that we face.

A study by the CDC showed that many adults believe that if they are sick enough to see a doctor for a cold, they should get an antibiotic treatment. The study also showed that patients are not aware of the consequences of taking the drugs if they are not needed. And when antibiotics are misused, bacteria can become resistant.

What Are Antivirals?

Antivirals are medications that reduce the ability of flu viruses to multiply. The CDC considers antiviral drugs as a "second line of defense against the flu" after getting an annual flu vaccine. When taken at the onset of flu, these drugs help decrease the severity and duration of flu symptoms. They can also be used in cases to help prevent the flu, but they are not a replacement for getting the flu vaccine.

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