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General Information About Antibiotic Resistance
Antibiotics Are Not for Colds and Flu
Most infections are caused by two main types of germs - bacteria and viruses.
Bacteria are organisms found almost anywhere, except normally sterile sites, such as the blood stream and spinal fluid. A few bacteria, known as pathogens, can cause diseases in humans, animals, and plants.
Viruses are organisms that cause disease by invading healthy host cells. As virus particles multiply, the host cells burst, allowing the viruses to infect other cells.
Antibiotics kill bacteria, not viruses.
Antibiotics will not cure upper respiratory viral illnesses, such as:
Colds or flu
Most coughs and bronchitis
Sore throats not caused by strep
Tens of millions of antibiotics prescribed in doctor's offices each year are for viral infections, which cannot effectively be treated with antibiotics. Doctors cite diagnostic uncertainty, time pressure on physicians, and patient demand as the primary reasons why antibiotics are over-prescribed.
Taking antibiotics for viral infections - such as a cold, cough, the flu and most bronchitis - will not:
Cure the infections
Keep other individuals from catching the illness
Help a person fell better
Taking antibiotics for viral infections will increase the risk of antibiotic resistance.
The spread of viral infections can be reduced through frequent hand washing and by avoiding close contact with others.
What To Do For Colds and Flu
Children and adults with viral infections recover when the illness has run its course. Colds caused by viruses last for two weeks or longer.
Measures that can help a person with a cold or flu feel better:
Increase fluid intake
Use a cool mist vaporizer or saline nasal spray to relieve congestion
Soothe throat with ice chips, sore throat spray, or lozenges (do not give lozenges to young children)
Viral infections sometimes lead to bacterial infections. Patients should keep their doctor informed if their illness gets worse or lasts a long time.