Welcome back to cold and flu season! But remember, if you get sick, taking antibiotics won’t always help. If you get a cold or flu, antibiotics could do more harm than good. That’s because these are viral infections, and antibiotics only fight bacterial infections. Every time you take antibiotics, they kill sensitive bacteria, but resistant germs can survive to grow and multiply. These resistant germs are called “antibiotic-resistant,” and they can lead to severe infections, hospitalizations, and death, especially among people over 65.
This week is Antibiotic Awareness Week. Here are 3 things you can do to make sure you’re using antibiotics the right way:
- Always talk to your doctor before taking an antibiotic to be sure it will treat the infection you have.
- Take antibiotics only to treat bacterial infections. Take antibiotics for only as long as your doctor prescribed to treat the infection, to reduce your risk of getting the infection again, or to reduce the risk to those around you.
- Never take antibiotics for a viral infection, like a cold, cough, or flu. Antibiotics won’t cure your virus, they won’t keep those around you from getting sick, and they won’t help you feel better. In fact, taking antibiotics when you have a virus may increase your risk of getting an antibiotic-resistant infection later.
Antibiotics won’t help you recover from a cold or flu, but you can keep yourself from catching the major flu viruses by getting your flu shot! It’s free for people with Medicare, once per flu season when given by doctors or other health care providers (like senior centers and pharmacies) that take Medicare. Keep your body strong against germs and infections, and learn when antibiotics can work for you!