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Some people are surprised that when they have an infection no antibiotic is prescribed by their doctor.Why are antibiotics prescribed for some infections and not others?Antibiotics are very useful for certain types of infections caused by bacteria.They may even be life saving for serious bacterial infections.However, most common infections are caused by viruses.

Virus Infections

Many of the common infections of the nose, throat, ears and chest are due to viruses. Flu and flu-like illnesses are also caused by viruses.The body"s immune system is good at fighting off many types of virus infection in children and adults who are normally well.An antibiotic is not needed if a virus is causing an infection. This is because of the following:

  • Antibiotics do not kill viruses.Antibiotics only kill bacteria
  • If you have a fever it is important to try to keep cool.This is particularly important in young children. Do not wrap them up but keep clothing and bedclothes to a minimum and give paracetamol.
  • Other advice may be given for specific symptoms, for example, coughs and blocked noses.A pharmacist will be able to give you advice on appropriate treatments.

What if my symptoms change?

Most virus infections clear without complications.If the illness appears to worsen after a few days or if you are worried about any new symptoms come back to see the doctor.

Call 111 when you need medical help fast but it’s not a 999 emergencyNHS ChoicesThis site is brought to you by My Surgery Website