Taking antibiotics for viral infections is not necessary or recommended. Antibiotics do not work for viral infections, whereas bacterial infections usually respond well to them. For the most part, viral infections themselves cannot be treated or cured, but some medications can make symptoms more manageable. The common cold, acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) and the flu are common viral infections for which no cure has been found. Misusing antibiotics can help harmful bacteria build a resistance to the medication, making it virtually ineffective when antibiotics really are needed.
Using antibiotics for viral infections is pointless and potentially harmful because of how viruses work. A virus invades and lives inside previously healthy cells of a person’s body, so the virus is protected from most medicines. If a virus worked more like a bacterial infection, scientists most likely would have found a cure for the common cold and other common viral infections. A person who has a viral infection and finds that antibiotics make him or her feel better is experiencing a placebo effect or has other, undiagnosed health problems.
Viral infections such as the flu and the common cold are usually “treated” with time. A person also can make sure to get plenty of rest, stay hydrated and take medications that relieve aches and pains to help him or her sleep. It also is important for the infected person to practice good hygiene to not spread the infection to other people who come into contact with him or her. A viral infection usually goes away within two weeks, but the elderly and pregnant women are at risk of complications from serious viral infections such as the flu.
Although cures do not exist, people can get vaccines to prevent infections such as the flu. Practicing good hygiene also goes a long way toward staying healthy and helping other people stay healthy. In addition, some vitamin products are proven to lessen the severity and duration of the common cold. Still, companies that promise a cure for a viral infection or offer antibiotics for viral infections should be viewed with skepticism.
Antibiotics for viral infections do not work, but they can work for most bacterial infections if doctors prescribe them responsibly and patients take them according to a doctor’s orders. One of the worst things that a patient can do is stop taking an antibiotic after they feel better. Most healthcare professionals advise taking the full course of medication and stopping only if a potentially dangerous side effect or allergic reaction is experienced.