Skip navigation
   Other Topics: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W XYZ All Topics

Antibiotics

 

 
 

Antibiotics are powerful medicines that fight bacterial infections. Used properly, antibiotics can save lives. They either kill bacteria or keep them from reproducing. Your body's natural defenses can usually take it from there.

Antibiotics do not fight infections caused by viruses, such as

  • Colds
  • Flu
  • Most coughs and bronchitis
  • Sore throats, unless caused by strep

If a virus is making you sick, taking antibiotics may do more harm than good. Each time you take antibiotics, you increase the chances that bacteria in your body will be able to resist them. Later, you could get or spread an infection that those antibiotics cannot cure. Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) causes infections that are resistant to several common antibiotics.

When you take antibiotics, follow the directions carefully. It is important to finish your medicine even if you feel better. If you stop treatment too soon, some bacteria may survive and re-infect you. Do not save antibiotics for later or use someone else's prescription.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

 

 

 
 
Basics Learn More Multimedia & Cool Tools

 

 
Research Reference Shelf For You

 

 

 

Photograph of various pills

National Institutes of Health

 

  • MedlinePlus links to health information from the National Institutes of Health and other federal government agencies. MedlinePlus also links to health information from non-government Web sites. See our disclaimer about external links and our quality guidelines.

 

 

 

MedlinePlus links to health information from the National Institutes of Health and other federal government agencies. MedlinePlus also links to health information from non-government Web sites. See our disclaimer about external links and our quality guidelines.