A: First, your doctor needs to determine what type of infection he or she is treating. Infections are caused by two main types of germs — bacteria and viruses. Bacterial infections can be cured by antibiotics; viral infections cannot. Viral infections cause all colds and most coughs and sore throats. People recover from viral infections when the illness has run its course. However, you need to be aware that sometimes viral infections can lead to bacterial infections.
Some common illnesses that may or may not require an antibiotic are:
• Ear infections: There are several types; most need antibiotics, but some do not.
• Sinus infections: Antibiotics are needed for long-lasting or severe cases.
• Cough or bronchitis: Antibiotics are rarely needed for bronchitis.
• Sore throats: Viruses cause most sore throats. Only “strep throat,” which is diagnosed with a laboratory test, requires antibiotics.
Common colds: Antibiotics have no effect on colds.
Antibiotics are often used before and after surgery to protect patients from infection.
Patients who are vulnerable to antibiotic-resistant bacteria include premature infants and children, the elderly, burn victims, bone marrow transplant patients ad patients with weakened immune systems (i.e., AIDS, leukemia).
Antibiotics are among the most powerful and important medicines known. Weaker bacteria are killed each time you take antibiotics; hardier ones may be left to grow and multiply, so be sure to follow your physician’s advice when it comes to taking antibiotics.
Information provided by Jennifer Meurer, Pharm.D., Medicap Pharmacy, 107 N.E. Delaware, Suite 6, 964-8550.