Martha Jefferson Healthwise: When to Get Antibiotics

Dec. 11, 2013

If you're coughing, sneezing or have a sore throat, you're not alone.

But how do you know if you need to go to the doctor and get an antibiotic?

Dr. Margo Gill of Forest Lakes Family Medicine says it all depends on whether your illness is viral or bacterial.

"A lot of times people come in with a common cold or a virus and those viruses can appear in the body in many different ways. Most people come in with coughs, runny nose, mild sore throats. The biggest complaint that they have is that it just won’t go away. They don't have fevers. There's no specific place where the infection has set in. Those are almost always caused by a viruses," said Dr. Gill.

If your sickness is caused by a virus, she says your best bet is to try an over the counter medicine. However, if a doctor finds that an infection has set in one specific area like the ears, throat or lungs, it's most likely a bacterial infection and needs to be treated with an antibiotic.

Dr. Gill says people with a chronic illness, diabetes, or someone who's prone to infection may also need an antibiotic if they get sick.

She adds that if you start to feel sick, the best thing you can do is get lots of vitamin C, zinc or Cold-eeze.

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