The Do's and Don'ts of Antibiotic Use

Antibiotic resistance is a growing problem, both in the United States and across the world. The main driving factors behind antibiotic resistance are the overuse and misuse of antibiotics. Learn more below about when antibiotics are and are not needed for common infections, and the potential harms of using antibiotics.

If You Have a Cold or Flu, Antibiotics Won't Work for You

Are you aware that colds, flu, most sore throats, bronchitis, and many sinus and ear infections are caused by viruses? Did you know that antibiotics do not help fight viruses? It's true. For the overwhelming majority of common respiratory infections, antibiotics are not helpful.

Antibiotics cure bacterial infections, not viral infections such as:

  • Colds or flu
  • Most coughs and bronchitis
  • Most sore throats
  • Runny noses

Taking antibiotics for viral infections will not:

  • Cure the infection
  • Keep other individuals from catching the illness
  • Help you feel better

Taking antibiotics when you have a virus may do more harm than good:

Antibiotics are responsible for 1 out of 5 emergency department visits for adverse drug events, and they are the most common cause of emergency department visits due to adverse drug events in children.

Taking antibiotics increases your risk of getting an antibiotic-resistant infection later.
Antibiotics kill the healthy bacteria in the gut, allowing more harmful bacteria to grow in its place.  It’s important to take antibiotics for only bacterial infections since they can put you or your child at risk for harmful side effects and antibiotic-resistant infections.

* information obtained from Centers for Disease Control.
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