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When Should You Use Antibiotics?

As many doctors will tell you, antibiotics are important tools in the treatment of bacterial infections, fungal infections, and some parasites. Not only do antibiotics help your body fight harmful bacteria, but they will also slow the bacteria’s ability to multiply.
It is very important that you learn when you or your child should take antibiotics, because overuse or misuse of antibiotics, although common, can result in antibiotic-resistant bacteria or bacteria that have not been completely eradicated.


Should you take an antibiotic for a cold or the flu?

No. Antibiotics do not work against infections that are caused by viruses, such as a cold or the flu, but instead are used to treat infections caused by bacteria, fungi, and certain types of parasites. If you take an antibiotic for a viral infection “just to be safe,” you (1) will not make the illness go away any quicker, and (2) may risk dangerous side effects that stem from the antibiotic.
Other types of viral infections include:

  • The common cold
  • Bronchitis
  • Stomach flu
  • Chicken pox
  • Most cases of pink eye
  • Most coughs
  • Most ear infections
  • Most sore throats

For what types of infections should you use an antibiotic?

  • Strep throat
  • Staph infections
  • Urinary tract infection
  • Most sinus infections
  • Some types of ear infections
  • Bladder infections
  • Some types of pneumonia

When should my child take an antibiotic?
Sometimes, a stuffy nose is not just the symptom of a cold, but you should never use antibiotics as a precaution. It is always advised to check with your pediatrician about whether or not your child should use any medication.
If antibiotics are needed, however, the pediatrician will write out a prescription with the amount of antibiotics the child should take, as well as the length of time the child should take it for. These directions should always be followed, because this will reduce the chance of overuse or misuse.

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