When you feel sick, you want to feel better fast. You may think that antibiotics are the quickest way to get well. But antibiotics don’t work for viral infections such as colds, flu, most coughs, bronchitis, runny noses and sore throats that aren’t caused by bacteria.

Taking antibiotics for viral infections won’t cure the infection, keep others from catching it or help you feel better. Taking antibiotics when you don’t need them can also cause some bacteria to become resistant. Resistant bacteria are stronger and harder to kill. They can stay in your body and can cause severe illnesses that cannot be cured with antibiotic medicines. A cure for resistant bacteria may require stronger treatment – and possibly a hospital stay.

To avoid the threat of antibiotic-resistant infection, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) encourage you to talk to your doctor about antibiotic resistance. If you’re prescribed an antibiotic, you should take it the way your doctor tells you. Finish the full prescription even if you are feeling better. If you stop treatment too soon, some bacteria may survive and re-infect you. This goes for children, too. Make sure your children take all medication as prescribed, even if they feel better.

For more information, please talk to your doctor or health care provider. Or, visit the CDC’s website. (This link leads to a third party website. The CDC is solely responsible for the contents and privacy policy on its site.)