When Do You Need Antibiotics? 5 Factors to Consider

When you’re sick, many people think a good dose of antibiotics is the answer to getting better. The problem is not all illnesses respond to antibiotics. Taking it unnecessarily can cause more harm by forming antibiotic resistance.

Before you jump on the antibiotic bandwagon, know when you need it… and when you don’t. By educating yourself on antibiotic use, you can get yourself and your family the treatment you need.

Next time you ask yourself, “When do I need antibiotics?”, here are 5 factors to consider.

1. Antibiotics Treat Bacteria, Not Viruses

An antibiotic is a prescription medicine that fights infectious bacteria. It works by either killing the bacteria that are making you sick or by stopping it from growing.

Since viruses have different genetic makeup from bacteria and make you sick in a different way, antibiotics cannot kill them. That makes antibiotics only effective against bacterial infections and illnesses.

In fact, most viral infections aren’t treated by medicine at all. Medication is only used to manage the symptoms they cause.

2. Common Illnesses Treated by Antibiotics

The most common illnesses treated by antibiotics are strep throat, urinary tract infections, tuberculosis, and whooping cough.

There are also some illnesses that can link to either a bacterial infection or viral, which makes it a little more difficult to know for sure. Sometimes antibiotics are good for sinus infections, ear infections, bronchitis, and some pneumonia.

3. When You Don’t Need Antibiotics

Any time you have an infection or illness due to a virus, you don’t need an antibiotic. It’s actually more common to get sick by a virus than by bacteria, especially in the nose and throat.

Common types of illnesses caused by viruses are the common cold, flu, most sore throats and coughs.

An antiviral medication may help, but most of the time viruses need to run their course. To help yourself feel better while it does, take over-the-counter medications to ease your symptoms and get plenty of rest.

4. Symptoms to Watch for

While symptoms can’t tell you for sure if you need an antibiotic, many can give big clues. Viruses and bacterial infections can have similar symptoms, which make it trickier to tell the difference.

Go to the doctor if you’ve been sick for more than 10 days, have a reoccurring fever, excessive green or yellow mucus, or shortness of breath.

5. See a Doctor to Know for Sure

Of course, you’ll never know for sure if you need an antibiotic until a doctor examines you. If you think there’s a chance you have a bacterial infection, it’s best to seek medical help.

A doctor may be able to tell from a physical exam. Other times laboratory tests are the only way to determine if you’re suffering from a virus or bacteria.

Since antibiotics are a prescription medication, seeing a doctor is the only way to get treatment.

When Do You Need Antibiotics? Get the Answers You Need

When you or a loved one is sick, the most important thing is to find the best possible treatment. With these tips, you’ll never have to wonder when do you need antibiotics again.

Have any questions or concerns? Contact us today! Oxford Urgent Care is open 7 days a week for your convenience.