Antibiotics – will they help my virus infection?

.tags Don’t expect antibiotics to cure every illness. Antibiotics are only effective against bacterial infections. In the past antibiotics were prescribed “just in case” the infection was bacterial rather than viral because it was thought that taking them “couldn’t do any harm”. This approach has been proven wrong, and this very practice has contributed to the development of antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria.

While the use of antibiotics depends on the specific diagnosis, basic guidelines include:

• Colds and flu are caused by viruses. They cannot be cured with antibiotics. Symptoms can last two weeks or more and should be allowed to run their course.

• Cough and bronchitis are almost always caused by viruses. However, if you have a lung condition or the illness lasts a long time, your infection may be caused by a bacteria instead. Your doctor may decide to try treatment with an antibiotic.

• Sore throats are most often caused by a viral infection. Strep throat is caused by bacteria and requires treatment with antibiotics. A throat swab and a lab test are needed before your doctor will prescribe an antibiotic for a sore throat.

• Ear infections often require the use of antibiotics. However, not all ear infections are bacterial infections.

• Sinus infections do not always indicate a bacterial infection. Even if you have a runny nose, or yellow or green mucus, you may not have a bacterial infection. Antibiotics should only be used for severe infections or infections that last more than two weeks.

• Do not demand antibiotics from your doctor!

• When given antibiotics, take them exactly as prescribed and complete the full course of treatment; do not hoard pills for later use.

• Do not skip doses. Doing so causes the level of antibiotic in the bloodstream to drop, providing bacteria with a “breather”. As a result, some may survive and reinfect you later, causing a relapse.

• wash your hands properly to reduce the chance of getting sick and spreading infection.

• Wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly; avoid raw eggs and undercooked meat, especially in ground form.

• Use soaps and other products with antibacterial chemicals only when protecting a sick person whose defenses are weakened. Overuse of this type of cleaner again can lead to bacterial resistance. Tests have shown that cleaning with conventional soaps and detergents is just as effective.

Antibiotics are still a powerful weapon in our arsenal against disease, but we have to use them wisely!

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