Antibiotics don't kill viruses

Antibiotics are medicines used to treat infections or diseases caused by bacteria.

Antibiotics do not work against viruses. Many common respiratory tract infections (RTIs) — such as colds and flu — are caused by viruses, so antibiotics are of no use.

A course of antibiotics won’t help you to get over a cold or flu (influenza) faster, won’t stop your infection from getting worse, and won’t prevent your infection being passed onto other people.

If you are usually healthy and well, your immune system will take care of most respiratory tract infections — both viral and some bacterial infections — by itself.

Dr Nick Carr explains why antibiotics won't help a cold get better faster, or stop a cold from spreading or getting worse. Find out who really needs antibiotics and when.

In the meantime, you can make yourself more comfortable by:

If you do have symptoms of a respiratory tract infection caused by bacteria (e.g. whooping cough), or if you are at risk of the complications of a cold or flu (often a second bacterial infection like pneumonia), your doctor may prescribe antibiotics.