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As a teen, why can't I take antibiotics for a viral infection?

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)

The vast majority of viruses do run their course and exit your body via the portholes most associated with blowing, sneezing, and coughing. Most antibiotics--when taken for viral infection--can actually have a negative effect. What happens is they kill off the good, commensal bacteria that keep the bad bacteria in check, so you actually end up more vulnerable to bacterial infection in the end. While it may have some sort of placebo effect by making you feel better, it’s actually not helping you--and may even harm you, unless you get a bacterial infection on top of your viral one.

YOU: The Owner's Manual for Teens: A Guide to a Healthy Body and Happy Life

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YOU: The Owner's Manual for Teens: A Guide to a Healthy Body and Happy Life

A few years ago, we wrote YOU: The Owner’s Manual, which taught people about the inner workings of their bodies—and how to keep them running strong. But you know what? There’s a big difference...

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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.