What Everyone Should Know

Antibiotics save lives, and when a patient needs antibiotics, the benefits outweigh the risks of side effects and antibiotic resistance.

Antibiotics Don’t Work on Viruses

Antibiotics are only needed for treating certain infections caused by bacteria.

If you have a cold or flu, antibiotics won’t work for you.

Antibiotics won’t help for some common bacterial infections including most cases of bronchitis, many sinus infections, and some ear infections.

Risks of Antibiotics

It’s important to only take antibiotics for bacterial infections since they can put you or your child at risk for harmful side effects and antibiotic-resistant infections.

1 out of 5 medication-related visits to the ED are from reactions to antibiotics.

Side Effects

Anytime antibiotics are used, they can cause side effects. When antibiotics aren’t needed, they won’t help you, and the side effects could hurt you.

Common side effects range from minor to very severe health problems and can include:

  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Yeast infections

More serious side effects can include:

  • Clostridium difficile infection (also called C. difficile or C. diff), which causes diarrhea that can lead to severe colon damage and death.


People can also have severe and life-threatening allergic reactions.

Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria

Each year in the United States, at least 2 million people get infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria. At least 23,000 people die as a result.

Antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria develop the ability to defeat the drugs designed to kill them.

Some resistant bacteria can be harder to treat and can spread to other people.