Antibiotics: This is When to say No

Do you need antibiotics? I bet you have had a bad cold or a nagging cough and wondered if it was a virus or bacterial infection?

This is because the symptoms of a bacterial infection and a virus are often very similar; fever, muscle aches, cough, and sore throat. However, they require different treatments.

It is important you know how to differentiate between the two to save you time, money and hurting yourself by taking antibiotics when not necessary. 

Bacteria vs Viruses

Bacteria are one-celled organisms that multiply and are linked to ear, throat, and sinus infection as well as bronchitis, pneumonia, and whooping cough. Viruses are little parasites that reproduce rapidly and cause the common cold, the flu, and certain pneumonias.

 Most respiratory illnesses are not serious, the culprit is usually a virus not bacterium. We suspect that a respiratory illness is caused by a bacteria if

  • Your symptoms last more than 10 days
  • You have recurring fevers
  • There is shortness of breath
  • You have excessive yellow or green mucus

People with an increased risk for bacterial infections, such as the elderly, individuals with compromised immune systems, or a history of asthma, should see a health care provider within the first few days. 

Dealing with a viral Illness

It is really a waiting game. Viruses typically last 7 to 10 days. They generally do not need to be treated by a health care provider, but there are ways you can speed up your recovery:


  • If the air is dry at home, use a clean humidifier or cool mist vaporizer
  • Stop smoking or stay away from people who smoke.
  • Take nonprescription pain relievers like Tylenol, Panadol, ibuprofen for pain, fever and muscle aches
  • Use an over-the-counter nasal spray or drops, but limit it to 2 to 3 days because it can cause rebound congestion.
  • Rest during the day and get plenty of sleep at night.
  • Wash your hands frequently to avoid spreading germs.

Sore Throat

  • Soothe your throat with throat spay, popsicles, lozenges, crushed ice, and honey.
  • Gargle with salt water.
  • Drink plenty of fluids.
  • Avoid dairy products, as they can thicken phlegm

Sinus Pain/Pressure

  • Apply a warm towel over the nose and forehead to help relieve sinus pressure and help with your facial discomfort. 
  • Breathe in steam from a bowl of hot water or shower
  • Consume warm fluids (soup or tea) to provide relief for a stuffy nose and to loosen phlegm.
  • Do not blow your nose too hard.

Please, contact your healthcare provider if you haveHigh fever, Ear pain, Sinus-type headache, unusually severe cold symptoms,Cough that gets worse while other cold symptoms improve, Flare up of any chronic lung problem, such as asthma.

2 thoughts on “Antibiotics: This is When to say No

  1. It is really bad how we over use antibiotics in Nigeria. I am guilty of this too. I now know better. Thank you

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