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Colds and flus - antibiotics

Antibiotics DO NOT cure colds and flus.

Information

Antibiotics fight infections that are caused by bacteria. They do not treat infections that are caused by a virus. Colds and flu are caused by viruses. If you have a viral infection, antibiotics WILL NOT make you better.

The overuse of antibiotics can:

  • Kill normal ("healthy") bacteria that live in your body. This may cause nausea and diarrhea. Women can get vaginal yeast infections.
  • Increase the risk of drug-resistant bacterial infections.
  • Put you at risk of an allergic reaction.

Do not take antibiotics when they will not treat an illness.

Alternative Names

Antibiotics - colds and flu

References

Husain AN. The lung. In: Kumar V, Abbas AK, Aster JC, eds. Robbins and Cotran Pathologic Basis of Disease. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 15.

Melio FR. Upper respiratory tract infections. In: Walls RM, Hockberger RS, Gausche-Hill M, eds. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 65.

Miller EK, Williams JV. The common cold. In: Kliegman RM, Stanton BF, St. Geme JW, Schor NF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 20th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 379.

Review Date 1/14/2018

Updated by: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.