Antibiotics are powerful medicines that fight bacterial infections. 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. Each time you take antibiotics, you increase the chances that bacteria in your body will be able to resist them. Later, you could get or spread an infection that those antibiotics cannot cure. Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) causes infections that are resistant to several common antibiotics.
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.
Reference: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases