I'm feeling sick, will antibiotics help me feel better?
Colds and flu are not treated with antibiotics.
Most infections are caused by 1 of 2 types of germs: bacteria or viruses. Antibiotics only treat infections caused by bacteria. Since the common cold and the seasonal flu are caused by viruses, antibiotics will not work for these illnesses. Antibiotics won’t help you get better faster or shorten the time you have cold or flu symptoms. Unnecessary antibiotics can cause unwanted side effects including medication reactions, resistant bacteria, or new infections such as antibiotic associated diarrhea (caused by a bacteria called Clostridium difficile). The best way to relieve the symptoms of a cold or flu is to use over-the-counter cold and flu medicines, home remedies that will help you feel more comfortable while your body finishes healing, and getting plenty of rest.
Sometimes bacterial infections can complicate viral infections and cause symptoms to last longer than they normally would for a regular viral infection. Bacteria causes infections such as strep throat, some ear infections, and some sinus infections, as well as pneumonia. For bacterial infections, your doctor may recommend antibiotics.
Are over-the-counter cough and cold medicines recommended for children?
No, these medicines are not recommended for children younger than 4. Rest, fluids, and time are the best treatments for colds and flu for children at this age. Cough and cold medicines have not been proven to be effective in children, and too much medicine can have serious side effects.
Do not give over-the-counter cough and cold medicines to young children. Instead, try to:
- Give your child lots of fluids.
- Make sure your child gets plenty of rest.
- Stick to quiet activities.
- Give your child lots of love and attention.
Keep your child home from school or other group activities until his or her fever has been gone for 24 hours without having to use fever reducing medicines (such as acetaminophen).
Is it safe to breastfeed if I have the flu?
Yes, breastfeeding is safe and good for your baby. You cannot give the flu to your baby through your breast milk. Breastfeeding and breast milk protect your baby’s health in many ways. Mothers pass on antibodies—a type of protein made by your immune system that fights off infection—in their breast milk.
Remember to wash your hands often with soap and water, especially before feeding or handling your baby. And be sure not to cough or sneeze in your baby’s face. If possible, only adults who are not sick should care for infants, including feeding them. If you are too sick to breastfeed, pump and have someone else give your milk to your baby.
How do I know if I have a cold or the flu?
It’s not always easy to tell whether you have a cold, the flu. The symptoms of the flu are similar to those of a bad cold. The good news is that home treatment is effective for both colds and flu, and can help relieve your symptoms while your body heals itself. It’s not necessary to know whether you have a cold or the flu: in either case we recommend that you get rest, drink lots of fluids, and take steps to treat your symptoms while your body heals itself.
How can my family and I stay healthy during flu season?
There are a few things that everyone can do to avoid getting sick:
- Wash your hands with soap and water as often as you can. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are helpful when you’re on the move.
- Avoid touching your mouth, nose, and eyes because germs spread that way.
- Cover your coughs and sneezes with your arms, sleeves, or tissue.
- Avoid close contact with people who are already sick.
- Get your flu vaccine.