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Taking antibiotics: also useful for colds and flu?

It happens suddenly and mostly during the night: we wake up in the morning with a headache, sore throat and stuffy nose. The cold is coming. Viruses that are transmitted through the air we breathe or through direct contact, eg. B. shaking hands or holding on to handrails, getting into the mucous membranes and triggering an infection there. On average, a viral cold goes away within two weeks. With nasal spray, cough syrup and home remedies, improvement occurs after a few days. Still be for a speedy recovery often prescribed antibiotics. But when does it really make sense to take them? And when do they bring more side effects than benefits?

What is the difference between viruses and bacteria?

Unlike viruses, bacteria are living beings that carry DNA and thus genetic information for metabolism, energy production and reproduction for division. Viruses, on the other hand, consist only of a protein shell filled with their genetic material. However, they have no metabolism and depend on their host’s living cells for reproduction.

Do Antibiotics Help With Viral Infections?

Antibiotics do not help against viruses as they only fight bacteria in the body. Since viruses have no metabolism, antibiotics cannot penetrate the cell walls of the virus and destroy it like bacteria can.

When are antibiotics useful?

If a so-called secondary infection occurs due to the common cold, caused by bacteria, antibiotics can help.

The first signs of a secondary infection are:

  • Persistent high fever
  • Yellowish-green nasal discharge
  • Purulent sputum
  • Severe headache and body aches
A secondary infection can include pneumonia, otitis media, or sinus infections. Since the mucous membranes have already been attacked by the virus, the bacteria pass easily. The already weakened immune system cannot react sufficiently for the bacteria to spread.
But beware: antibiotics usually don’t take into account “good” or “bad” bacteria. Consequently, it may happen that eg. B. the sensitive balance of the intestine is disturbed and it comes to stomach cramps or diarrhea. In many women, the protective bacteria in the genital area are often killed, which leads to fungal infections.

Date: 09/18/2020

Author: Christina Liesch