In This Section      
Print This Page

Johns Hopkins Health - Don’t Reach for That Antibiotic Just Yet

Winter 2015
Issue No. 27

Don’t Reach for That Antibiotic Just Yet

Date: January 6, 2015


woman blowing her nose and some prescription bottles

Your nose is stuffed up and you are miserable. You need an antibiotic to make it better, right? Probably not, says Wendy Bennett, M.D., M.P.H., an internist at Johns Hopkins.

Many upper-respiratory infections are caused by viruses, which don’t respond to antibiotics. Yet these medications are frequently prescribed, even though they won’t help.

“Most of the time for colds, even for bronchitis or sinusitis, we don’t use antibiotics,” Bennett says. “We used to give antibiotics more often for sinusitis, but now we’re realizing it’s usually caused by a virus.”

Sometimes it can be difficult to tell whether an illness is bacterial and calls for antibiotics. Although coughs and runny noses are viral, strep throat and pneumonia are usually bacterial. Infections like pinkeye and eczema are typically viral, but if they don’t improve in 10 days, antibiotics may be warranted to treat secondary infections that have taken hold.

Another reason to use discretion with antibiotics: Side effects can include nausea and diarrhea. Plus, medication overuse makes it more likely that a future infection will resist antibiotic treatment.

Sign Up for Health Information from Johns Hopkins

Get the latest news on health and wellness topics important to you and your family, all from the experts at Johns Hopkins Medicine. The Your Health e-newsletter is delivered straight to your inbox. Visit hopkinsmedicine.org/news/e-newsletters for your free email subscription.

Related Content

Find Physicians Specializing In...