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Antibiotics not the answer for common cold

Antibiotics should only be used to treat bacterial infections, not viral infections as they will not work against upper respiratory illnesses caused by viruses. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kenna Jackson) Antibiotics should only be used to treat bacterial infections, not viral infections as they will not work against upper respiratory illnesses caused by viruses. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kenna Jackson)

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FORT WAINWRIGHT, Alaska — Coughing, runny noses and sore throats are common this time of year and many people want to begin antibiotics as soon as symptoms of a cold appear. Unfortunately, antibiotics do not help kill viruses that cause the flu, colds, many sore throats or bronchitis and in fact can do more harm than good when taken unnecessarily.

The majority of infections are caused by either bacteria or viruses; bacteria are organisms that can be found almost everywhere throughout the human body while viruses are organisms that cause disease by invading healthy cells in the body.

Antibiotics should only be used to treat bacterial infections, not viral infections, as they will not work against upper respiratory illnesses caused by viruses. Taking antibiotics for illnesses such as colds, flu, runny noses or most coughs will not make you feel better, cure the infection, nor keep others from catching the infection.

In fact, taking antibiotics for viral infections will increase the risk of antibiotic resistance later.

When someone takes antibiotics, weaker bacteria are killed, but stronger germs may be left to grow and multiply. The repeated, improper use of antibiotics are a major cause of an increase in drug-resistant bacteria.

The problem with this resistance is that when antibiotics don't work, the consequences can include longer-lasting illnesses, more doctor visits, extended hospital stays and the need for more expensive medications. 
Some resistant infections can even cause death.

In order to prevent antibiotic resistance there are some best practices to keep in mind:

  • Do not take an antibiotic for a viral infection like a cold or the flu.
  • Take necessary antibiotics exactly as the doctor directs and do not skip any doses.
  • Don't take someone else's prescription.
  • Talk to your healthcare provider about antibiotic resistance. Ask whether an antibiotic will be effective in treating your illness.
  • Do not demand antibiotics for your children if their healthcare provider has determined they are not needed.

Be smart when using antibiotics. Remember that colds and flu are caused by viral infections that cannot be treated by antibiotics. Children and adults with viral infections will recover when the illness has run its course. The spread of viral infections can be reduced through frequent hand-washing and by avoiding close contact with others. Since viral infections can sometimes lead to bacterial infections, healthcare providers need to know if an illness gets worse or lasts a long time.

For more information on antibiotics and how they work, visit the CDC website.

Disclaimer: Re-published content may have been edited for length and clarity. Read original post.

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