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 Illnesses and Antibiotic Resistance

Cough, Cold, and Influenza (Flu)

Most cases of acute bronchitis (another name for a chest cold) are caused by viruses. Influenza is also caused by a virus.

On this page:
Will antibiotics help?
What can you do if you have acute bronchitis or the flu?
Prevent the spread of disease to others
Plan ahead: build a Cough and Cold Care Kit!
More about respiratory illnesses

Will antibiotics help?

  • No.
    • Influenza and most cases of acute bronchitis (another name for a chest cold) are caused by viruses.
  • Antibiotics cannot:
    • Treat viral infections.
    • Prevent the spread of viral infections to others.
    • Ease the symptoms of a viral infection.
  • Some children with chronic lung disease are more susceptible to bacterial infections and sometimes they need antibiotics.

What can you do if you have acute bronchitis or the flu?

  • You need lots of extra rest.
  • Drink plenty of fluids (especially water) and eat healthy foods.
  • Take acetaminophen* 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.
  • A cool mist vaporizer may help too.
  • Keep your home smoke-free.
    * Follow package directions for age & dose or your health care providers’ instructions.

  • 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.

Prevent the spread of disease to others

Plan ahead: build a Cough and Cold Care Kit!

  • Before you or a family member gets a cold or the flu, get ready to ease the symptoms by making a “Cough and Cold Care Kit” for your home.
  • A “Cough and Cold Care Kit” contains:
    • Acetaminophen to ease muscle aches & reduce fever
    • Decongestants to ease a stuffy nose
    • Cough syrup
    • Throat lozenges (adults and older children only!)
    • Chicken soup
    • Tea
    • Tissues
  • Take the Cough and Cold Care Kit Shopping List to the store today!

More about respiratory illnesses:

  • Flu Facts: Antibiotics and the flu
    Flu vaccine is in short supply. Available vaccine should be given to those at highest risk of complications from the flu.

  • Flu and Colds
    The February 2003 issue of American Family Physician™ contained a section on respiratory illness and antibiotics. Find the section on "Flu and Colds" here. Links to their other articles on respiratory illness can be found at the top right of the piece.
  • Acute Bronchitis
    American Academy of Family Phsicians