Antibiotics should be used if you have a bacterial infection. Unfortunately, many viral infections can give similar symptoms and signs of bacterial infections, and antibiotics are often prescribed unnecessarily.
Some common bacterial infections that are usually treated with antibiotics are:
- Otitis media (infection of the middle ear)
- Streptococcal tonsillitis (infection of the tonsils with the bacterium Streptococcus pyogenes)
- Pneumonia (infection of the lungs)
- Meningitis (infection of the membrane lining the brain)
The common cold, and influenza can mimic conditions like pneumonia, otitis and tonsillitis (with symptoms like cough, mild fever, earache and sore throat). Some clues that you may have a viral infection are a runny nose and either a mild fever or no fever at all. Remember, however, that this is a generalisation, and if you are in doubt, it is best to consult your doctor.
When shouldn’t I take an antibiotic?
As above – if you don’t have a bacterial infection, there is no need to take an antibiotic.