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Health Tip: Taking an Antibiotic

-- Antibiotics can help you recover from a bacterial infection, but they offer no medical benefit against viruses.

Prescribing an antibiotic for an viral illness, in fact, isn't a good idea. Overuse of these medicines can make the bacteria in your body resistant to the drugs. The medicines then lose their effectiveness, making a bacterial illness harder to treat.

The American Academy of Family Physicians lists these illnesses that are often treated with an antibiotic, and a few that don't need the medication:

  • Colds and flu are caused by viruses, and won't respond to antibiotics.
  • Cough and bronchitis are usually caused by viruses. However, people with chronic lung problems or those who have a cough that lasts a long time may need antibiotics.
  • While a regular sore throat is caused by a virus, strep throat is a bacterial infection that requires antibiotic treatment.
  • Ear and sinus infections should be evaluated by a doctor, since many are caused by bacteria, while others are viral.
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Posted: August 2008