Yearly, millions of antibiotics are prescribed to treat infections that are caused by viruses. Unfortunately, antibiotics do not kill viral infections, but only work for bacterial infections. Common viral infections include: colds, influenza (flu), most coughs, some sore throats, and runny noses. Antibiotic therapy during a viral illness will not cure the illness, prevent the spread, or help symptoms. Furthermore, taking antibiotics during a viral illness could actually decrease the ability of antibiotics to work against bacterial infections acquired in the future. Antibiotics are beneficial for bacterial infections. However, if not taken properly, antibiotics can be as ineffective against bacteria as viruses. The Centers for Disease Control provides some tips for taking antibiotics when they are prescribed. Take antibiotics exactly as prescribed without skipping doses. Take the full prescription even if you begin to feel better. Make sure children take all antibiotics exactly as prescribed. Do not save antibiotics for the next illness. Never take medication prescribed for someone else.
Taking antibiotics only when needed and taking them exactly as directed by a healthcare practitioner will ensure that illnesses are treated safely and effectively. Consult your pharmacist or physician for questions related to the use of antibiotics.