What Are Antibiotics and What Do They Do?
- What kinds of germs cause infections?
- Viruses and bacteria are two kinds of germs that can cause infections and make people sick.
- Virus vs Bacteria
Do you ever wonder what is causing your illness? It could be a virus or a bacteria... and the differences are important.
- What are antibiotics?
- Antibiotics are powerful medicines that are mostly used to treat infections caused by bacteria.
- These are known as anti-bacterial drugs.
- These drugs cannot fight viruses; there is a special class of medicines called antivirals that specifically fight infections caused by viruses.
- There are many classes of antibiotics, each designed to be effective against specific types of bacteria.
- When an antibiotic is needed to fight a bacterial infection, the correct antibiotic is needed to kill the disease-producing bacteria.
- How can I tell if an illness is caused by a virus or a bacteria?
- The symptoms of viral infections are often the same as those caused by bacterial infections.
- But it is important that your doctor or health care provider decide if a virus or bacteria is causing the infection.
- Sometimes diagnostic tests are needed.
- If an infection is caused by a virus, what can be done to relieve the symptoms?
- An antibiotic will not work.
- You need lots of extra rest.
- Drink plenty of fluids (especially water) and eat healthy foods.
- Some over-the-counter medications may help while your body is fighting the virus:
- Acetaminophen* may help for muscle aches or fever.
- Decongestants* may help if you have a stuffy nose.
- Cough syrup* may relieve cough symptoms.
- Throat losenges (for older children and adults only) can ease a sore throat.
- Ask your doctor about topical analgesic eardrops for ear pain.
* Follow package directions for age & dose or your health care providers’ instructions.
- A cool mist vaporizer may help too.
- Keep your home smoke-free.
- Viral infections (like chest colds, acute bronchitis and most sore throats) resolve on their own but symptoms can last several days or as long as a couple weeks.