Get Smart About Antibiotics

Know When Antibiotics Work

When you're not feeling well, a prescription for antibiotics is a surefire ticket to a speedy recovery - right? Not exactly. In fact, many students who come in to UHS asking for antibiotics won't benefit from them, and taking unneeded antibiotics can be harmful further down the road.

Get Smart

Take a look at this chart to find out which upper respiratory infections are usually caused by viruses — germs that are not killed by antibiotics.

I have a bad cold. I need a doctor to prescribe antibiotics for me, right?

Actually, no. Colds, as well as the flu, most sore throats, and bronchitis are caused by viruses. Antibiotics (as the term suggests) fight bacterial infections, not viruses. Learn more about when antibiotics are and aren't needed for respiratory illnesses (CDC) »

But certainly a prescription for antibiotics wouldn't hurt, right?

It could. Taking antibiotics when they are not needed increases your risk of getting an infection later that resists antibiotic treatment.

The CDC notes that "almost every type of bacteria has become stronger and less responsive to antibiotic treatment when it is really needed." Check out these FAQs on antibiotic resistance (CDC) »

Okay, so antibiotics might not be for me right now. Then what can I do to get better more quickly?

Get lots of rest and drink lots of fluids. Over-the-counter medications can help relieve symptoms while your body recovers, but be sure to use them as directed. The CDC has more tips for a quick recovery here (CDC) »