Conditions That Don’t Require an Antibiotic


Pill Medicine white blue and brown pills lying with the medicine bottle isolated on whiteAntibiotics are strong medicines that slow down or destroy the growth of harmful bacteria. For many years, antibiotics have been overprescribed and overused, often being administered in cases where they provide no benefit (such as for a viral infection) or when the immune system could resolve the infection. This has allowed bacteria to mutate and become resistant to antibiotics. Antibiotic-resistant bacteria increasingly cause infections that are more difficult to cure and more costly to treat – a threat that impacts the entire world population.

When Antibiotics May Not Be the Answer

There are a number of conditions for which antibiotics are often prescribed that are commonly caused by viruses, not bacteria. Antibiotics are generally unnecessary in these cases because they have no effect on viruses. Antibiotics only work against infections caused by bacteria, fungi and certain parasites. Here are some common illnesses for which antibiotics are often used unnecessarily.

  • Cold and flu. A cold is a viral illness that will not respond to antibiotics. Likewise, an antibiotic will not kill the flu as it is a virus. When these illness hit, it’s best to treat the symptoms with over-the-counter medication, stay hydrated and eat well to allow your body to heal. Flu antivirals may also be a wise precaution to shorten the duration of the illness.
  • Sinus infection. Sinusitis that causes stuffiness, runny nose and facial pain is almost always caused by a virus. Unless symptoms are severe and include a fever, it’s best to let the illness run its course. Even when bacteria are the cause, sinus infections usually clear up without treatment in about a week.
  • Ear infection. It’s estimated that 80% of middle ear infections in children will resolve without treatment within two or three days. Treatment protocols reserve antibiotics for children under one year. Find out why children are more prone to this type of infection.
  • Sore throat. Most sore throats are caused by viruses. The exception is strep throat, which is caused by bacteria. An instant strep test, available at RediClinic, can determine if the cause of a sore throat is strep bacteria.
  • Urinary tract infection (UTI). An uncomplicated UTI usually resolves within a few days without treatment. Healthy patients who do not have a history of recurring UTI may be advised to delay treatment with antibiotics to allow the body time to recover.

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