Taking an antibiotic for the cold or flu? What is the point?
Antibiotics are medications that are used to treat infections caused by bacteria. The common cold and flu are viral infections, and asking your prescriber for an antibiotic to treat these conditions is something we do not encourage you to do.
When is it ok for you vs not okay to take antibiotics?
|Common Cause: Virus||Common Cause: Bacteria|
|Sore throat, sinusitis
Vomiting and diarrhea
Runny nose, cough, head cold
|Antibiotics rarely needed||Antibiotics needed|
If you were to take antibiotics when they are not needed this may create antibiotic resistance, which can occur when bacteria are exposed to antibiotics and can learn to resist them. How can you avoid antibiotic resistance?
- If you have been prescribed an antibiotic COMPLETE the course of medication by taking all of the dispensed pills
- DO NOT skip doses of antibiotics if prescribed
- DO NOT save pills for later
Don’t want to get sick this winter … then take these precautions and you can limit your exposure to feeling ill.
- Wash your hands!
- Your hands are a good environment for cold viruses, and these viruses can stay on your skin for up to 2 hours.
- Try and avoid close contact to those who are ill!
- Sneeze or cough into the pit of your elbow, to avoid virus from spreading onto your hands!
If you unfortunately catch the common cold or flu, then symptomatic treatment until the virus passes is the best option. If symptoms do not resolve after a week, or worsen, we would encourage you to schedule an appointment with our providers at Student Life Student Health Services, or visit your primary care physician.
|Sore throat||Acetaminophen or Ibuprofen
Honey and lemon, or anesthetic lozenges
|Dry cough (lack of mucus)
Wet cough (production of mucus)
|Fever, pain, joint or muscle ache||Acetaminophen or ibuprofen|
|Runny nose, or congestion||Nasal sprays—oxymetazoline (do not use more than 3 days, ask your pharmacist if symptoms persist)
Oral Decongestants—pseudophedrine or phenylephrine
PharmD Candidate 2018
- Marjama, K. Treating the common cold. Pharmacy Times (2017). 83 (12): 95-96.
- Allan, M., Arrol, B. Prevention and treatment of the common cold: making sense of the evidence. CMAJ (2014); 186 (3): 190-199.
- Schroeder, M., Brooks, B., Brooks, A. The complex relationship between virulence and antibiotic resistance. Genes (2017). 8 (1): 39-62