The Nurse’s Note: Bacterial Infections vs. Viral: When Should I use Antibiotics?
Home » The Nurse’s Note: Bacterial Infections vs. Viral: When Should I use Antibiotics?
It is that time of year when most of us start having issues with runny noses and chest congestion due to allergies, flu, or the common cold. This congestion can lead to upper and lower respiratory infections. These can be caused by either bacterial or viral infections. As you might think, bacterial infections are caused by bacteria, and viral infections are caused by viruses. Strep throat and urinary tract infections (UTI) are some common bacterial infections and flu, and the common cold are common viral infections diagnosed by doctors during the fall and winter. The most important distinction between bacteria and viruses is that antibiotic drugs usually kill bacteria, but they are not effective against viruses. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about one-half of antibiotic use in humans is either inappropriate or unnecessary. In some cases, it is difficult to determine whether a bacterium or a virus is causing your symptoms. Since their discovery one hundred years ago, antibiotics have saved countless lives. Unfortunately, overuse has led to emerging antibiotic resistance that could render these drugs ineffective. When taken inappropriately or unnecessarily prescribed, it allows the organisms to develop defense mechanisms against medications. Doctors typically treat bacterial infections by prescribing antibiotic medications that either kill the organisms or prevent them from multiplying. Since antibiotics are not effective on viruses, we have no other choice but to treat symptoms while we wait for our bodies to create antibodies that eradicate or suppress the virus. In most cases, if you are sick with the flu or common cold, the best medicines are fluids, rest, and some chicken soup. The Nurse