Antibiotics and Viruses

4/8/2019 10:00:00 AM Published by Next Level Urgent Care

‘Tis the season to be viral!

If you are sick with a cough, cold, fever, diarrhea,  or vomiting, please come see us at Next Level Urgent Care!  We pride ourselves in our open communication and kindness to our patients. 

If you get diagnosed with a viral illness, your doctor or advance care practitioner may NOT prescribe you an antibiotic. 

“WHY NOT?” You may ask...

Well, antibiotics do NOT kill viruses.

Viruses are different from bacteria in their structure and make up. Antibiotics target specific areas of bacteria and they attack the cell walls and structure of bacteria to eradicate it.

Viruses are self limiting and our body and its immune system does a pretty good job of fighting off most viruses. Most sore throats, coughs, ear infections, gastrointestinal infections are in fact viral. 

"Well what if I just really want to take antibiotics?"

Taking antibiotics for viral infections will certainly not help the symptoms. Taking antibiotics for viral illnesses may just worsen the symptoms like diarrhea (because you have to deal with the side effects of the antibiotics in addition to the symptoms of the illness). 

Antibiotics can also interact with current medication regimens, causing things like heart arrhythmia or dizziness. Therefore a provider has to be careful to check interactions and review health conditions before prescribing antibiotics.

In addition, taking "left over" antibiotics from a previous illness at the first sign of a fever or sore throat can be harmful and complicate your medical picture. 

"Ok, so what should I do?"

If you are sick, you should be evaluated by a physician/NP/PA who can determine if this is a viral/bacterial/fungal/parasitic infection. 

Most viral infections last 7-10 days. You can manage symptoms by taking Tylenol, Ibuprofen, decongestants, cough medicine (for adults), and nasal sprays. 

If you are sick for longer than ten days or if you suddenly worsen when you were initially improving, we might be dealing with a bacterial superimposed infection so antibiotics may be warranted at that time. 

Some viral infections like the flu, shingles, chicken pox may be helped by anti-viral medications taken early enough.

So next time you're feeling the sniffles, or have a fever, come see us and let us take care of your health!