Sick girl at home with medication and orange juice at her bedside.

Do You Really Need that Antibiotic?

Ah, the holiday season. The decorations, food, gatherings with family and friends. And the sniffles, sneezes, coughs and body aches that follow.

Yes, it’s also cold and flu season. So, as you deck the halls, you’re also washing your hands, covering your coughs, and staying home when you’re sick.

But, do you also need an antibiotic?

If you have a bacterial infection, maybe. If you have a viral infection, like a cold, the flu, or even most types of bronchitis, the answer is no. Antibiotics do not cure viral infections. In fact, taking antibiotics for viral infections can lead to antibiotic resistance and dangerous side effects.

Antibiotic resistance is a term that’s often misunderstood. It means the bacteria that cause a bacterial infection (like strep throat, for example) become resistant to the antibiotics that are supposed to kill them. When bacteria become resistant, the antibiotics can no longer effectively fight them. Then the bacteria multiply, making it even more difficult to treat the infection.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, at least 2 million people in the United States are infected annually with antibiotic-resistant bacteria. At least 23,000 people die as a result. That’s why you should only take antibiotics when they are truly needed.
Check the CDC education site for more information on the appropriate use of antibiotics. Or, download this helpful brochure. And talk with your doctor if you have questions.

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Photo credit: diego_cervo

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