Why is it a bad idea to treat a virus with an antibiotic?

Antibiotics kill bacteria, not viruses. If you give someone an antibiotic for a virus, it will not work. It would just kill the beneficial (“good”) bacteria in the person's body, which can cause some bad side effects. In addition, an antibiotic can turn some bacteria in your body into super bugs. That means, in the future, an antibiotic you need may not work.
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Treating a virus with antibiotics is a bad idea for several reasons. It is frankly a waste of money on your end and can increase your personal risk of side effects and allergies to the antibiotics. The last thing anyone needs when riding out a cold is to add an itchy rash or an upset stomach to the mix. Also, new data is linking gut bacteria to digestion, brain function and overall health. Since doctors can’t give you an antibiotic that only affects your nose or lungs, the pill is going to affect the gastrointestinal tract that has to digest it as well. That is an additional negative with very personal risks and implications.

Continue Learning about Viral Infections

Viral Infections

Viral Infections

Viral infections like herpes simplex, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), chicken pox and rotavirus are infections caused by a virus instead of a bacterium. Viral infections do not respond to antibiotics, but some specific viruses ...

like influenza A and B can be treated with certain antiviral medications. Most commonly, treatment for viral infections includes drinking lots of fluids, getting rest, eating well and letting the illness run its course.

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.