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Sunday, February 26, 2017

Flu and Colds -- Why Antibiotics Don't Work

This is the cold and flu season for many. If you end up with one or the other or both and go to the doctor, you'll probably be disappointed when you walk out with no prescription. That's because antibiotics will not work on colds and flu. Here's why.

Why antibiotics don't work on colds and flu

Colds, flu, sore throat, runny noses, bronchitis and sinus infections are all caused by viruses. Viruses are different than bacteria and so are the illnesses caused by each. Antibiotics cannot kill viruses because viruses have different structures and replicate in a different way than bacteria. In other words, viruses do not respond to antibiotics designed to kill bacteria.

How antibiotics work

Antibiotics work by targeting the growth in bacteria, which kills or inhibits the bacteria. The reason there are so many different kinds of antibiotics is because there are so many different kinds of bacteria causing illnesses. For example, amoxicillin is a penicillin-type antibiotic that can be used to treat a strep throat but will not work for some common types of pneumonia.

Why you should not take antibiotics for viruses

If you insist on taking an antibiotic for a virus-causing illness, not only will it not work but it will also lead to antibiotic resistance. This is when bacteria can become resistant against antibiotics, making the antibiotics less and less effective in killing bacteria that causes illnesses. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), "Antibiotic resistance is accelerated by the misuse and overuse of antibiotics, as well as poor infection prevention and control. Steps can be taken at all levels of society to reduce the impact and limit the spread of resistance."

How to treat viruses

So, what do you do when you have an illness caused by a virus? Rest, drink plenty of fluids and treat the symptoms, such as fever or aches and pains, with pain and fever relievers, like acetaminophen or ibuprofen, and as directed by your doctor. Let the body fight off the virus on its own.

DISCLAIMER: The content or opinions expressed on this web site are not to be interpreted as medical advice. Please consult with your doctor or medical practictioner before utilizing any suggestions on this web site.