How To Help Viral Infections – Think a good dose of antibiotics will take that cold or flu away from you? Think again. Antibiotics, if prescribed and taken correctly, can usually kill bacteria but they are useless against viruses such as colds and flu.

Unlike bacteria, viruses generally require vaccination to prevent them in the first place or antiviral drugs to treat them. Often, the only treatment for a viral infection is to let the disease run its course.

How To Help Viral Infections

Bacteria are single-celled microorganisms that are found everywhere—in the air, soil and water, on plants and animals. Most bacteria—including those in our gut—are harmless. Some actually help by digesting food and destroying disease-causing microbes, according to the Mayo Clinic, which notes that less than 1 percent of bacteria cause disease in humans.

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Taking the prescribed course of antibiotics as directed by the doctor can kill the infection. Unfortunately, bacteria can adapt and overuse of antibiotics has helped create strains of bacteria that have developed resistance to antibiotics.

Viruses are smaller than bacteria and cannot live without a living host. Viruses attach to cells and usually reprogram them to reproduce themselves. Also, unlike bacteria, most viruses cause disease.

Viral infections require either vaccination to prevent them in the first place—such as vaccination against polio or measles—or antiviral drugs to treat them.

Antiviral drugs, developed largely in response to the AIDS epidemic, do not destroy the virus but prevent its development. Antivirals are also available to treat a number of illnesses such as herpes simplex virus, the common cold and shingles, according to Medical News Today.

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Antibiotics are ineffective against viruses, and the Centers for Disease Control and other health organizations now recommend against using antibiotics unless there is clear evidence of a bacterial infection.

Most viral infections tend to clear up on their own without treatment, so any treatment is generally aimed at relieving symptoms such as pain, fever and cough.

Viruses and bacteria are complicated. Not only can it cause the same symptoms but many diseases—such as pneumonia, meningitis and diarrhea—can be caused by either viruses or bacteria.

Your doctor can often diagnose you through a medical history and physical exam. The doctor may order a blood or urine test or a spinal culture to help determine a viral or bacterial infection.

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According to medical experts interviewed by, most doctors consider four things when faced with the virus vs. bacteria question:

The CDC offers a long list of non-prescription drug measures you can look to to relieve your symptoms. In addition to generally resting by drinking plenty of fluids, here are some of the easiest for adults to follow:

Affordable care action back to school cancer children children’s health COVID-19 diabetes exercise family health fitness food health advocates health care access workers health care health insurance healthy habits healthy lifestyle heart health hospital leave medicaid legislation men’s health mental health mental illness new year’s resolutions opioid nutrition PA health recipes patient prevention rural health care self care senior health skin care summer sleep technology sun protection telehealth telemedicine winter vaccinations workplace safety Have you ever wondered why with some illnesses your doctor prescribes antibiotics and with other ailments you are advised to rest, drink fluids and take over the counter pain relievers?

Your treatment varies based on the type of microbe – whether it’s a bacteria or a virus – that’s causing your illness. Antibiotics are only used for bacterial infections; they are not effective for viral diseases.

Prevention And Treatment Of Viral Infections

Although bacteria and viruses are both microbes, they are different organisms that cause disease in our bodies in different ways.

Viruses are not complete cells; they need a living host, such as a human, animal or plant, to survive. Much smaller than bacteria, viruses invade cells inside the host to reproduce. Most viruses will cause disease.

Bacteria, on the other hand, are usually single-celled organisms that can live on their own. Most bacteria are harmless, and some types are beneficial to us, such as the bacteria in our gut that help us digest food. There are some strains, though, that cause disease.

The common cold, the flu (influenza), and chicken pox are examples of viral infections. Viral diseases are contagious and can be spread through coughing, sneezing and other bodily fluids.

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Bacterial infections usually stay in one area of ​​your body, meaning they are localized infections. If you’ve ever had a sinus infection, you’ve experienced localized symptoms of this bacterial infection: congestion, sinus pressure, and thick greenish-yellow nasal discharge.

Examples of bacterial infections include sore throats, some pneumonias and urinary tract infections. Some bacterial infections – such as sore throat – are contagious, but many common bacterial infections are not. These include ear, sinus, bladder or kidney infections.

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Viral infections should generally go well, with treatment aimed at easing symptoms and providing some relief while you’re sick. Sometimes, antiviral drugs are prescribed for certain infections, such as the common cold (influenza) and shingles.

Only bacterial infections can be treated with antibiotics. These drugs fight bacterial infections by either killing the bacteria or making it harder for the bacteria to reproduce. It is important to only take antibiotics for bacterial infections and follow your healthcare provider’s instructions carefully when taking this medicine.

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Unnecessary use of antibiotics is one of the main causes of antibiotic resistance, which means that bacteria can avoid the effects of antibiotics and still survive after treatment.

According to the CDC, approximately 2.8 million people in the United States are infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria each year.* Visit the CDC website to learn more about antibiotic resistance and what you can do to help fight it.

Good hygiene is very important in preventing any type of infectious infection, whether viral or bacterial. Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, and clean surfaces that come into contact with sick people. Cover your coughs and sneezes, and always stay home when you are sick to prevent the spread of disease.

To avoid germs on wounds and blood, make sure you always clean and treat any cuts or scratches you have. Wash your wound gently with mild soap and water, use a topical ointment to aid healing, and cover it with a fresh bandage every day.

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Another way to prevent disease transmission is through immunization. Vaccines are available for some viral and bacterial infections. Most people begin receiving routine vaccinations in infancy and continue on the prescribed schedule throughout childhood and adolescence. Visit the CDC website to learn more about recommended disease vaccines.

Health Care Decisions Knowing the difference between viral and bacterial infections can help you make decisions about your health care, as well as help you understand the treatment options recommended by your health care provider. If you have symptoms of a cold, flu or other illness, visit your local center. Our friendly and caring medical team can diagnose your illness and suggest the right treatment to get you feeling better quickly.

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*Source: Antibiotic/Antimicrobial Resistance. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Updated January 5, 2017. Accessed March 16, 2023 healthy this winter October 1, 2020 Constipation in children August 25, 2020 Should my child miss school? 5 July 2020 Mental health during lockdown 4 April 2020 The importance of physical activity 1 January 2020 Understanding pain 9 July 2019 Sleep safer 21 June 2019 Staying safe in the sun 14 June 2019 Make the most of your health services 16 February 2019 When should I worry? February 16, 2019 Why are there no antibiotics? October 30, 2017 Take 5 steps to wellness May 15, 2017 No luck? Cancel it! February 2, 2017 Choose well January 11, 2017

Winter conditions can adversely affect our health, especially for those with long-term conditions such as COPD, bronchitis, emphysema, asthma, diabetes or heart or kidney disease. People aged 65 and over are also vulnerable. Cold, wet weather, ice, snow and strong winds can all exacerbate any existing health problems and make us more susceptible to winter respiratory illnesses.

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Self-care is the best option for treating minor illnesses, pains and injuries. Common winter ailments such as those in the table can be treated with over-the-counter medicines. Whether treated or not, most will get better on their own.

Although most illnesses will recover without the need for medical treatment, sometimes they can become serious. If you have any of the following symptoms or you are concerned about how unwell you feel, please contact your practice or out-of-hours GP service. If someone is not breathing, has difficulty breathing, is confused or unresponsive, this is an emergency and you should contact the ambulance service by calling 999.

Flu immunization is an important part of preventing serious illness. The flu (or influenza) can be more serious than you think. It can cause complications such as bronchitis and pneumonia. Unfortunately, many people die from the flu every year.

A flu vaccination is a simple injection (or nasal spray for children) that teaches your body’s immune system how to recognize the virus that causes the flu so it can effectively fight the infection.

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The elderly and those with underlying health problems are more at risk of getting seriously ill with the flu and deserve it

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