The very first antibiotic, salvarsan, was used in 1910. But the discovery of penicillin in 1928 started the “golden age” of antibiotic breakthroughs, a game-changing period that continued through the mid-1950s. Without a doubt, the emergence of infection-squashing antibiotics transformed modern medicine and added 23 years to the average human lifespan.
Antibiotics work to rid your body of disease-causing bacterial infections. They can restore your health, prevent serious complications, and even safeguard your life.
But using antibiotics when you don’t need them won’t help you get better; in fact, it can be harmful. At American River Urgent Care in Orangevale, California, our urgent care team knows it can be confusing to know when you may need an antibiotic — and when you can beat an illness without one. Find out here.
Which infections are treated with antibiotics?
Healthcare providers rely on antibiotic medications to treat certain bacterial infections. Many of the illnesses caused by these bacterial infections are contagious, and most risk serious or worsening health complications if left untreated.
However, Some bacterial infections don’t necessarily require antibiotics because they tend to resolve independently with basic at-home comfort care measures. Common illnesses caused by a bacterial infection that requires antibiotic treatment include:
- Strep throat
- Whooping cough
- Urinary tract infections (UTIs)
- Bacterial pneumonia
- Chlamydia and gonorrhea
Common illnesses that can be caused by either a bacterial or a viral infection include sinus infections and middle ear infections. Most of the time, these conditions resolve without an antibiotic — even when they’re bacterial in nature.
Acute bronchitis (chest cold) is another illness that doesn’t require antibiotic treatment, even though bacteria or a virus can cause it.
Can antibiotics help me get over a viral illness?
Antibiotic medications are completely ineffective against illnesses caused by viruses. Taking them won’t help you get better when you have a respiratory infection like the flu (influenza), the common cold, COVID-19, or a sore throat that isn’t strep.
What are the dangers of improper antibiotic use?
Besides being totally ineffective for treating your illness, taking an antibiotic when you have a viral infection leaves you open to uncomfortable and potentially harmful side effects. Common side effects of antibiotic use include:
- Skin rash
- Yeast infection
Even more problematic, using antibiotics when you don’t need them can contribute to the development of antibiotic resistance. As one of the most pressing public health concerns, antibiotic resistance occurs when bacterial germs develop the ability to defeat the medications designed to kill them — making certain infections and illnesses increasingly harder to treat.
Every year in the United States, almost 30% of prescribed antibiotics are deemed unnecessary, nearly three million people develop antibiotic-resistant infections, and over 35,000 people die as a result.
Can I beat my illness without taking antibiotics?
When you understand that antibiotics are only helpful in certain cases — and useless and potentially harmful the rest of the time — you don’t want to take them unless needed.
So, can you beat your illness without antibiotics? If you have a viral infection, the answer is yes. While you must simply allow a cold to run its course, you may be able to lessen the severity of other viral illnesses, including the flu and COVID-19, with an antiviral treatment.
If you have a sinus infection or middle ear infection, antibiotics usually aren’t necessary — but may be helpful if the infection worsens or lingers longer than expected. If you have strep throat, whooping cough, a UTI, or bacterial pneumonia, beating your illness means taking an antibiotic as prescribed.
Are you feeling under the weather? American River Urgent Care is here to help. Stop by our walk-in clinic in Orangevale, California, today — we’re open from 9:00 am to 7:00 pm every weekday and from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm on weekends. You can also call our office or click online to book an appointment at your convenience anytime.