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When do I need an antibiotic if I have a cold?

A common cold is typically caused by a virus, which does not require an antibiotic. Physicians don’t often prescribe an antibiotic for a cold.

You do not need an antibiotic if you have a cold. A cold is caused by a virus, and antibiotics do not help this kind of infection. If your symptoms last longer than two weeks and you have developed other symptoms such as a high fever, shortness of breath or intensifying pain, it is possible your cold has progressed to a bacterial infection. Your doctor may choose to prescribe antibiotics at that point.

Antibiotics are never an effective treatment against a cold, but may be needed to treat secondary infections.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.