3 Situations When Antibiotics Aren’t the Answer

pills and capsules

There are medications that generations of people have relied on to solve some of the most common medical issues. If you’re prone to headaches or muscle cramps, for example, you might find yourself automatically purchasing over-the-counter pain relief medications. When you feel like you’re coming down with a cold, you might not give second thoughts to taking popular cold medications to manage your symptoms.

Indeed, many Filipinos have been exposed to home remedies and easy solutions to common medical conditions from a young age, and this familiarity with everyday medication continues to this day. It’s worth noting, however, that medical knowledge moves forward at a fast pace. Over time, it’s been discovered that some of the medications that were branded cure-alls in the past actually had limited applications. 

A good example here would be antibiotics, which are a class of medication that is used to fight bacterial infections in people and animals. While antibiotics certainly work in treating health issues caused by bacteria, they’re not exactly useful for illnesses from other causes. What’s worse is that the misuse of antibiotics has contributed to the development and acceleration of antibiotic resistance in bacteria.

What Is Antibiotic Resistance?

Antibiotic resistance takes place when bacteria develop mechanisms to protect themselves from these medications. This makes it more difficult to treat illnesses caused by resistant bacteria, thus leading to more expensive treatments, extended hospitalizations, and higher mortality rates. Antibiotic resistance also poses a serious threat to food security; what’s more, it has the potential to hold back general research and development in the field of science and medicine.

As such, it’s important to make sure that antibiotics are only being used for cases where they can actually be beneficial to the patient. This means using antibiotics only for conditions that are caused by bacteria.

The good news is that public and private organizations are implementing measures about this pressing issue. For one, antibiotics have now become prescription-only medication in many parts of the world. This means that you can only buy or include antibiotics in your medicine delivery order if you have a medical prescription for them. This is an important step in curbing the unnecessary and inappropriate use of antibiotics, and slowing down the development of antibiotic resistance in bacteria. 

What Common Illnesses Are Not Treated with Antibiotics?

Educating patients and the general public about the proper use of antibiotics is an essential aspect of ensuring safety and effectiveness. It’s an established fact that antibiotics help treat and control the health issues that are caused by bacteria. In short, viruses are something antibiotics cannot do anything about. Here are some of the common health conditions that are caused by viruses and cannot be alleviated by antibiotics:

Cough and Cold

The common cold is caused by viruses, which means that antibiotics are not effective as a first line of treatment for this common health condition. The same is true with a cough, which often accompanies a cold. However, do take note that a cough and a cold can lead to bacterial infection, and such complications can benefit from the use of antibiotics. Of course, it’s a good idea to see your doctor to determine if this is the case for your particular condition. 


The flu is another illness that is caused by viruses, so taking antibiotics for it won’t help you get better. As a matter of fact, taking antibiotics in an effort to manage your flu symptoms can do more harm than good, as this can cause you to experience unnecessary side effects. This can also make your symptoms last longer than it should. 


There are cases of gastroenteritis that are caused by bacteria. However, it’s worth noting that viruses like rotavirus and norovirus are the most common causes of gastroenteritis or more popularly known as the stomach flu. As such, when you’re vomiting and suffering from diarrhea, you shouldn’t immediately turn to antibiotics to solve the issue. 

How Can You Use Antibiotics Correctly?

Your physician and pharmacist are your partners in ensuring that you’re doing your part in slowing down antibiotic resistance. If you have a condition that requires antibiotic treatment, your doctor will give you a prescription and a list of usage instructions that you should follow to the letter. This includes taking the medication at the same time every day and for the exact duration of days indicated. If you have leftover or expired antibiotics, you can give these to your pharmacist for proper disposal.

Also, part of using antibiotics properly is not sharing the medications that have been prescribed to you and not using antibiotics that have been prescribed to others. 

Consumers play an important role in prolonging the effectiveness of antibiotics. By using your prescription properly and practicing the abovementioned tips, you can do your share in ensuring that antibiotics will continue to be useful for as long as possible.