Get Smart About Antibiotics


You wake up this morning with a stuffy nose, and your throat looks red and swollen.  You talk to your roommate, your mom, and your pillow pet, and all of them advise you to get in to see the doctor, and get some antibiotics.  Sounds good?  Well… perhaps not.

The CDC recormmends that you get smart about when antibiotics are appropriate – to fight bacterial infections. Taking them for viral infections, such as a cold, most sore throats, acute bronchitis and many sinus or ear infections:

  • Will not cure the infection;
  • Will not keep other people from getting sick;
  • Will not help you feel better;
  • Will not prevent a future bacterial infection; and
  • May cause unnecessary and harmful side effects.

What Not to Do

  • Do not demand antibiotics when a doctor says they are not needed.
  • Do not take an antibiotic for a viral infection like a cold or most sore throats.
  • Do not take antibiotics prescribed for someone else. The antibiotic may not be appropriate for your illness. Taking the wrong medicine may delay correct treatment and allow bacteria to multiply.

If your doctor prescribes an antibiotic for bacterial infection:

  • Do not skip doses.
  • Do not save any of the antibiotics for the next time you or your child gets sick.

What to Do

Just because your doctor doesn’t give you an antibiotic doesn’t mean you aren’t sick.

Talk with your doctor about the best treatment for your illness. To feel better when you have an upper respiratory infection:

  • Ask your doctor or community pharmacist about over-the-counter treatment options that may help you feel better;
  • Increase fluid intake;
  • Get plenty of rest;
  • Use a cool-mist vaporizer or saline nasal spray to relieve congestion; and
  • Soothe a throat with ice chips, sore throat spray, or lozenges.

Finally, always follow your doctor’s advice about when to return to be rechecked.  Viral infections CAN open the door for secondary bacterial infections.  So, if the doctor says that you should be feeling better in a few days and to return if you are still sick in a week, take that seriously.

Roger Miller, MD (OSU Student Health Services)