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Antibiotics Aren’t Always the Answer

  • Category: Living Well
  • Posted On:
  • Written By: Jennifer Lambert, PharmD, MPA

Did you know?

An estimated 2 million illnesses and 23,000 deaths occur each year in the US due to antibiotic-resistant infections.1 Antibiotic are drugs used to treat bacterial infections, not viral infections. Using antibiotics the wrong way can lead to antibiotic-resistant infections that cause illness or death. Therefore, healthcare providers are being more careful when prescribing antibiotics and acknowledging that antibiotic resistance is one of the most urgent threats to the public’s health.

Taking Antibiotics creates resistant bacteria

Antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria no longer respond to the drugs designed to kill them. If more and more patients take unnecessary antibiotics, we will soon run out of options to treat the most common bacterial infections. This is why it is important to only take antibiotics as prescribed by a healthcare professional and to NEVER share your prescription for antibiotics.


Antibiotics DO NOT work on viruses

Illnesses such as colds and the flu ARE NOT treated by antibiotics. See the chart below to see which of the most common illnesses typically do not need an antibiotic.

Virus or Bacteria

If I don’t need antibiotics, what can I do to help myself feel better if I have a viral illness? Pain relievers, fever reducers, decongestants, saline nasal spray or drops, warm compresses, liquids, and rest may be the best things to help you feel better. Ask your healthcare provider or pharmacist what symptom relief is best for you.

Help us Celebrate!

Help UMCNO celebrate World Antibiotics Awareness week Nov. 12-18th.

Be antibiotics aware badge

During this week and throughout the whole year, we encourage patients and families to help us be Antibiotics Aware by doing the following:

  • Get the facts about antibiotics. Antibiotics do not work on viruses, such as those that cause colds, flu, bronchitis, or runny noses, even if the mucus is thick, yellow, or green. When antibiotics aren’t needed, they won’t help you, and the side effects could still hurt you.
  • Ask your doctor, nurse, or pharmacist about the best way to feel better.
  • While your body fights off a virus, pain relievers, fever reducers, saline nasal spray or drops, warm compresses, liquids, and rest can help you feel better.
  • If you need antibiotics, take them exactly as prescribed. Talk with your doctor if you have any questions about your antibiotics.
  • Talk with your doctor if you develop any side effects, especially severe diarrhea since that could be a Clostridioides difficile (C. difficile or C. diff) infection, which needs to be treated.
  • Do your best to stay healthy and keep others healthy by cleaning hands, covering coughs, staying home when sick, and getting recommended vaccines, such as the flu vaccine.


1 CDC. Antibiotic Resistance Threats in the United States, 2013. 16 September 2013. 32.