Q: What are antibiotics?

A: Antibiotics are drugs that are used to fight off bacterial infections, including common infections such as pneumonia and more serious infections such as sepsis. However, some bacterial infections get better without antibiotics, such as many sinus infections and some ear infections. Antibiotics are important drugs that save lives; however, improper use of antibiotics can lead to antibiotic resistance, which is when bacteria develop resistance to being killed by antibiotics.

Q: Can I use antibiotics to treat a cold?

A:Antibiotics do not work on viruses, such as those that cause colds, flu, bronchitis, and runny noses, even if the mucus is thick, yellow, or green. Thus, antibiotics will not make you feel better if you have a viral infection. Generally, respiratory viral infections resolve on their own in a week or two.

Q: I got prescribed antibiotics for my bacterial infection. Can I stop taking them once I feel better?

A: Antibiotics should be taken exactly as prescribed. If you start to experience any side-effects, let your healthcare provider know.

Q: What are some side-effects of taking antibiotics?

A: Common side effects include rash, dizziness, nausea, diarrhea, and yeast infections. A more serious side effect is a Clostridium difficile infection, which causes diarrhea, but can lead to severe colon damage and death. People can also have allergic reactions to antibiotics.

Q: I have left-over antibiotics at home. Can I use them to treat another infection in myself or a family member?

A: No! Antibiotics should only be used as instructed by a healthcare provider, and only be given to the person they are prescribed to. There can be serious reactions if antibiotics are given to someone who is allergic to them, if the wrong dose is given (in children especially, as doses are often based on weight), or if the individual is taking medications that interact with the antibiotics.

During this fall and winter season, protect yourself and your loved ones by washing your hands, covering up your cough, staying home when you are sick, and getting a flu shot!



CDC – Get Involved

CDC – Be Antibiotics Aware PDF