Bacterial vs. viral infection and antibiotics
Last updated 2/25/2020 at 8:53am
[Editor’s note: This article was submitted by the staff of Odessa Memorial Healthcare Center.]
Are you wondering why antibiotics are not being prescribed? Read on to learn the latest about the safe and effective use of antibiotics.
Antibiotics can save lives, but they may not be the answer when a person becomes sick. If a person is sick with an infection caused by a virus, in the case of colds, flu, bronchitis and runny noses (even if the mucus is thick, yellow or green), then antibiotics won’t make you feel better. Antibiotics are ineffective against viral infections.
Anytime antibiotics are used, they can also cause side effects. Common side effects can include dizziness, nauseas, diarrhea, yeast infections and rashes. A more serious possible side effect is Clostridioides difficile (also called C.diff), which causes diarrhea that can lead to severe colon damage and even death. People can also have reactions that are severe or life-threatening. The Centers for Disease Control reports that one out of every five medication-related visits to the emergency department is caused by a reaction to antibiotics.
Taking antibiotics also creates resistant bacteria. Antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria no longer respond to the antibiotics that were designed to kill them. Infections caused by antibiotic-resistant germs are difficult, and sometimes impossible, to treat.
Antibiotic resistance has the potential to affect all people. Each year in the United States, at least 2.8 million people are infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Of those, more than 35,000 people die. Helping healthcare professionals improve how they prescribe antibiotics, as well as how people take the antibiotics, helps to keep people healthier now, helps to fight against antibiotic resistance and be sure that antibiotics that can save lives will be available hopefully for generations to come.
If you are prescribed antibiotics it is important that you take them exactly as they are prescribed. Current research has shown that antibiotics can be taken for fewer days with good results, so your prescription for antibiotics may now be for shorter time frames than you have received in the past.
If your provider feels that you have a virus, antibiotics will not be prescribed. The best way to stay healthy and keep others healthy is to keep your hands clean, cover your coughs, stay home when you are sick and get the recommended vaccines, such as the influenza vaccine.
Remember, antibiotics are good to have when they are needed to fight a bacterial infection, but are ineffective with a viral infection. As with all medications, there is risk versus benefit, which is best discussed with your healthcare provider who has your best interest in mind.