The Brain and Spine Institute is made up of experts in the field of neuroscience in order to bring patients the best healthcare in East Tennessee for a full range of neurological diseases and disorders.
November 13, 2012
Antibiotics are only effective against bacterial infections, certain fungal infections and some kinds of parasites. To make it simple; the majority of the time you will ever receive an antibiotic will be to relieve and treat a bacterial infection. The overuse of antibiotics is one of the most serious public health concerns in the United States. The state of Tennessee is ranked #3 in the country for the most dispensed antibiotics to the public. If antibiotics are used too often for things they can’t treat—like colds or viruses—they stop working effectively against bacteria when you really need them.
So, how can you tell the difference between a bacterial or viral infection?
Although both are too small to be seen, they’re quite different in structure. Viruses are tiny and replicate inside cells using the cells' own metabolic function. In contrast, bacteria are relatively large organisms, commonly reproduce by themselves outside of cells, and have many metabolic functions that antibacterial drugs (antibiotics) can target. Therefore, antiviral drugs are much more difficult to develop than antibacterial drugs. Both can develop resistance to antibiotics/antiviral drugs if used to treat an infection that it cannot cure. Consequently, the future effectiveness of the drug is diminished. According to the CDDEP, once a bacteria develops resistance to a given antibiotic, it often will not respond to other antibiotics that share similar modes of action.
Common Bacterial Infections:
It is important to note that not all bacteria are bad. In fact, only 1% of bacteria is harmful and can even fight off the bad ones.
Signs & Symptoms of a Bacterial Infection:
Common Viral Infections:
Most commonly, viral infections involve the nose, throat and upper airways.
Signs and Symptoms of a Viral Infection:
Common symptoms of viral diseases include flu-like symptoms and malaise. These symptoms can appear within 1-3 days after being infected.
Presence of one of these symptoms does not dictate that you have either a viral or bacterial infection. A thorough evaluation by your doctor is recommended before starting or stopping any prescribed medication.
Although antibiotics are useful for treating bacterial infections, they are worthless against viral infections. Antibiotics can actually make colds worse by killing beneficial bacteria and creating an environment more favorable to the cold virus.
If prescribed, take antibiotics responsibly. They are powerful in fighting certain infections, but they are not a cure-all.
Resources & Related Readings: