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Antibiotics are not always necessary for all infectionsantibiotics_trackingdownthetruth

Antibiotics are very useful for some infections, caused by bacteria, but are useless against others, caused by viruses. Most common infections, (e.g. the common cold, coughs, flu and many sore throats) are caused by viruses, which are not affected by antibiotics. In children and adults, who are normally well, their immune system is good at fighting off many types of viruses.

If your infection is caused by a virus then an antibiotic is not necessary because:-

  • Antibiotics do not kill viruses, Antibiotics only kill bacteria
  • Antibiotics can cause side effects i.e. diarrhoea, nausea and vomiting, rashes and thrush. Such symptoms on top of already not feeling well can only exacerbate the situation
  • The cost of a prescription charge when it will not work
  • Overuse and inappropriate use of antibiotics has caused considerable concern lately due to resistance of bacteria. This can be a very dangerous situation as when the antibiotics are really needed they are ineffective. Recent research has shown more and more bacteria becoming resistant to antibiotics due to their common use when not necessary. General Practice has been responsible for the large amount of over prescribing of antibiotics due to inappropriate use by Doctors in some circumstances but also due to the inappropriate demand and expectation of patients, who often believe they can cure any symptoms.

Viral infections will get better on their own, however whilst the body is fighting off an infection one can feel unwell for several days or more.

The best treatment is aimed at relieving or controlling the symptoms:-

  • Take paracetamol regularly which helps the temperature and any aches and pains. For children Nurofen suspension is also excellent at reducing temperatures and also helps any aches and pains, it is compatible for use at the same time as paracetamol.
  • Have plenty to drink, because mild dehydration can develop if there is a high temperature. This can then make headaches and feelings of being unwell much worse.
  • Other treatments, available over the counter at chemists, which may be appropriate include cough linctus for coughs, aspirin gargles for adults with sore throats (no aspirin to children) and decongestants for a bunged up nose. A pharmacist will be able to advise on such treatments.

If your illness appears to change, becomes worse or if you are worried about any new symptoms then please consult your Doctor.

See also:

Antibiotics - Dont Wear Me Out (pdf)

Antibiotics - The Facts (pdf)

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