Go Ask Mom

Go Ask Mom

Get Smart: Will an antibiotic cure a cold, fix a sore throat?

Posted February 24, 2015

The campaign aims to curb antibiotic overuse.

Antibiotics have been around for decades to clear up bacterial infections. Illnesses like strep throat, pneumonia and some kinds of bronchitis and ear infections all can be cleared up with a round of the life-saving medications.

But not every cough, sore throat or earache requires a course of the bacteria killers. Why? Because common colds, the flu and other everyday ailments are caused by viruses, not bacteria. Antibiotics don't kill viruses.

Here's a list of common illnesses with information courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about whether they are caused by a virus or bacteria and whether antibiotics are indicated. Of course, it's always best to chat with your doctor if you're feeling under the weather.

Cold 
Cause: Virus
Antibiotics needed: No

Flu
Cause: Virus
Antibiotics needed: No

Chest Cold (in otherwise healthy children and adults)
Cause: Virus
Antibiotics needed: No

Sore Throat (except strep)
Cause: Virus
Antibiotics needed: No

According to N.C. Get Smart, only 1 in 5 children with a sore throat who see a doctor actually have strep throat. 

Bronchitis (in otherwise healthy children and adults)
Cause: Virus
Antibiotics needed: No

Runny Nose (with green or yellow mucus)
Cause: Virus
Antibiotics needed: No

Fluid in Middle Ear
Cause: Virus
Antibiotics needed: No

Go Ask Mom is partnering with the North Carolina Quality Center to help parents Get Smart About Antibiotics. For additional information and resources, see http://www.ncgetsmart.com.

1 Comment

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  • Barbara Sossomon Feb 25, 2015
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    OK, maybe it is just me, but why are children telling us to ask our doctors if we really need the antibiotic that they just prescribed? Those commercials get on my nerves. I would think, with all the eduction that a Dr has, that I would not sit there and say, Now, are you sure you are giving me the right drug? Do I need to have an antibiotic?