November 15, 2012

Antibiotics are one of the most important tools that we have to fight life-threatening bacterial infections. But they don’t work on viruses like a cold or the flu. If you take antibiotics to fight a virus, you may be doing more harm than good in the long run.

During cold and flu season, it's important to know when antibiotics will work and when they won’t.

Antibiotics Stop Working When We Overuse Them

The overuse of antibiotics has increased the number of drug-resistant germs. In the last 20 years, antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria have spread throughout the U.S. and around the world.

Antibiotic resistance happens when bacteria change in some way that reduces or stops the effectiveness of drugs that once worked. When antibiotics are not used in the right way, we give bacteria the chance to survive, become antibiotic resistant and cause more harm.

Save Antibiotics for When They’re Really Needed

What can you do to help save the strength of antibiotics for when they are really needed?

Remember that antibiotics don’t work on viruses like:

  • Colds
  • Flu
  • Runny noses
  • Most coughs
  • Most sore throats
  • Most bronchitis
  • Most sinus infections
  • Some ear infections

Taking antibiotics for viruses like these will not help cure you or your child, will not help you or your child feel better, and will not keep you from spreading your germs to others.

Other Things You Can Do

  • When you're sick, talk with your provider about whether antibiotics are the right choice.
  • If you're prescribed antibiotics, take them as prescribed. Keep taking them until your course is finished, even if you feel better.
  • Make sure your children take all antibiotics as prescribed, even if they feel better.
  • Throw away any leftover medication once you have completed your prescription. Don’t save it for another time.
  • Don’t share your antibiotics with others. Antibiotics can cause dangerous side effects in some people.
  • Practice everyday prevention to keep from getting sick – wash hands frequently, cover coughs and sneezes and stay home when sick.

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