Antibiotics are powerful medicines that fight bacterial infections. Used properly, antibiotics can save lives. They either kill bacteria or keep them from reproducing. Your body's natural defenses can usually take it from there.
Antibiotics do not fight infections caused by viruses, such as
- Most coughs and bronchitis
- Sore throats, unless caused by strep
If a virus is making you sick, taking antibiotics may do more harm than good. Using antibiotics when you don't need them, or not using them properly, can add to antibiotic resistance. This happens when bacteria change and become able to resist the effects of an antibiotic.
When you take antibiotics, follow the directions carefully. It is important to finish your medicine even if you feel better. If you stop treatment too soon, some bacteria may survive and re-infect you. Do not save antibiotics for later or use someone else's prescription.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention