Antibiotics are seldom required to treat upper respiratory infections and should be avoided unless a bacterial infection is suspected. Simple procedures, such as handwashing and covering one's face while coughing or sneezing, can help to minimize the spread of respiratory tract infections. Seeking medical attention if you experience symptoms of a serious condition, such as fever, cough, shortness of breath, or chest pain, enables us to determine what treatment approach is best for you.
Upper respiratory infections (URIs), also known as colds, are common illnesses that can cause problems when someone has them too often or gets them from people who are not their family members. URIs include things like the common cold, sinus infections, and pharyngitis (strep throat). Antibiotics do not treat viral infections such as the common cold. The flu is a viral infection of the respiratory system and does require antibiotic treatment.
It all starts with your body trying to fight off harmful bacteria or viruses that enter through your nose or mouth. Your immune system does this by making chemicals called cytokines. These chemicals tell other parts of your body how to act. For example, when you have the flu, certain cells in your brain make more of these chemicals than others. This tells other cells that something is wrong with your body and they need to make more antibodies to help fight the virus.
They may be prescribed by your doctor for other conditions, however.
An antibiotic will not kill viruses such as the common cold or the flu. It may take more than one dose of antibiotic to see all of the bacteria that are living in your body because they are always changing. Also, using too many antibiotics at one time can lead to the development of drug-resistant bacteria which cannot be killed by standard treatments. Finally, some people have allergies or problems with developing antibodies after receiving certain medications called immunosuppressants. Immunosuppressants are used to prevent organ transplant rejection and diseases such as lupus from occurring again.
There are several different types of antibiotics available over-the-counter and some combination products containing two or more types of antibiotics exist. However, these combinations are not recommended for use as they may cause side effects due to the interactions between the ingredients. Antibiotics can also be found as part of a regular multi-dose medication regimen from your doctor. The length of treatment varies depending on the type of infection and sometimes your doctor may prescribe a course of antibiotics even if you are feeling better before going back to normal activities.
Even if the mucus is thick, yellow, or green, antibiotics do not work on viruses that cause colds, flu, bronchitis, or runny noses. Antibiotics are only required to treat some bacterial illnesses, and certain bacterial infections may be treated without the use of antibiotics. For example, strep throat requires treatment with an antibiotic, but sore throats caused by bacteria usually do not.
Antibiotics kill both good and bad bacteria, so they should not be used unless really necessary. When they are needed, their use should be limited to as short a time as possible. They may also cause side effects such as diarrhea, nausea, allergic reactions, thrush (a yeast infection of the mouth), kidney problems, and skin rashes. If you stop taking antibiotics prematurely, this can allow bacteria to build up in your body, causing another illness called "antibiotic-resistant bacteria".
Some people are allergic to antibiotics and these drugs cannot be used to treat them. More than 100 different types of allergies to medications are known, but most involve the heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, muscles, nerves, or blood. The only allergy that has been reported to antibiotics is an allergy to penicillin. People who suffer from this type of allergy should avoid all forms of penicillin because any drug that contains penicillium not only treats infections caused by bacteria, but also treats some types of fungus.