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Viruses or Bacteria - What's got you sick?

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get smart about antibioticsAntibiotics only treat bacterial infections. Viral illnesses cannot be treated with antibiotics. When an antibiotic is not prescribed, ask your healthcare professional for tips on how to relieve symptoms and feel better.

Antibiotics Aren’t Always the Answer


Common Condition: What’s got you sick? Common Cause Are antibiotics needed?
Bacteria Bacteria
or Virus
Strep Throat Yes No No Yes
Whooping Cough Yes No No Yes
Urinary Tract Infection Yes No No Yes
Sinus Infection No Yes No Maybe
Middle ear infection No Yes No Maybe
Bronchitis/Chest Cold (in otherwise healthy children and adults)* No Yes No No
Common cold/runny nose No No Yes No
Sore Throat (except strep) No No Yes No
Flu No No Yes No

* In some cases, acute bronchitis is caused by bacteria, but even in these cases antibiotics still do not help.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention