Are antibiotics needed for an upper respiratory infection?

Antibiotics are almost never needed for upper respiratory infections. The vast majority of upper respiratory infections are caused by viruses, like the common cold. Antibiotics only work against bacteria. As a result, taking an antibiotic for an upper respiratory infection almost never makes the symptoms go away faster or cure the infection. Antibiotics are only considered in these infections if they have been present for at least two weeks without any sign of improvement and usually the symptoms are getting worse.
Antibiotics are rarely needed to treat upper respiratory infections, unless your healthcare provider suspects you have a bacterial infection.

Antibiotics do not fight infections caused by viruses, which includes colds, most sore throats and bronchitis cases and some ear infections. Most people get over the common cold in a few days without the need for prescribed medication. U.S. and world health officials are concerned about the overuse of antibiotics and how that trend can promote antibiotic-resistant infections in the future. Up to one-third to one-half of antibiotic use is either unnecessary or inappropriate, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

This content originally appeared online at Baptist Health South Florida.

Continue Learning about Viral Lung Infections

Viral Lung Infections

Viral Lung Infections

Viral lung infections include acute bronchitis, viral pneumonia, bronchiolitis, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). These viral lung infections usually begin as a respiratory virus that spreads to the lungs. Chest pain, chronic ...

coughing, fever and fatigue are common with bronchitis. This infection cannot be treated with antibiotics. Viral pneumonia presents with a host of symptoms including coughing, fatigue, fever, aches and pains, and GI symptoms. While antibiotics are not indicated for pneumonia, some antiviral medications can help. Infants can develop both bronchiolitis and RSV at a young age, causing coughing and wheezing.

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.