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11/17/23 Public Health Education Topic: Antibiotic Use

What is an antibiotic?

Antibiotics are medicines that fight infections caused by bacteria in humans and animals by either killing the bacteria or making it difficult for the bacteria to grow and multiply.

Bacteria are germs. They live in the environment and all over the inside and outside of our bodies. Most bacteria are harmless and even helpful to people, but some can cause infections, like strep throat.

What DO antibiotics treat?

Antibiotics ONLY treat certain infections caused by bacteria, such as:

  • Strep throat

  • Whooping cough

  • Urinary tract infection (UTI)

Antibiotics are also needed to treat life-threatening conditions caused by bacteria, such as sepsis, which is the body’s extreme response to infection.

What DON’T antibiotics treat?

Antibiotics DO NOT work on viruses, such as those that cause:

  • Colds and runny noses, even if the mucus is thick, yellow, or green

  • Most sore throats (except strep throat)

  • Flu

  • Most cases of chest colds (bronchitis)

Antibiotics also ARE NOT needed for some common bacterial infections, including:

  • Many sinus infections

  • Some ear infections

This is because these illnesses will usually get better on their own, without antibiotics.

Taking antibiotics when they’re not needed won’t help you, and their side effects can still cause harm.

To learn more visit: Antibiotic Use Questions and Answers | Antibiotic Use | CDC

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