When you get sick, you might automatically think that you need medication, such as antibiotics. However, it’s important to note that not all bugs need drugs. While antibiotics are prescribed to help treat bacterial infections, they don’t work on viral infections like the common cold. A cold is, unfortunately, just one of those things where you have to let nature take its course – as horrible as you might feel. It’s also possible to develop bacterial infections on top of your cold. Common types of bacterial infections that can occur alongside a cold include:

• Sinus infections
• Ear infections
• Throat infections (strep throat)
• Lung infections (pneumonia)

If you happen to develop any of these types of infections, then and only then will you need to take antibiotics. Other types of bacterial infections that are unrelated to colds that also require the use of antibiotics include things like UTIs (such as bladder or kidney infections), skin infections, etc.

While some people may think that there’s no harm in taking an antibiotic even as a precautionary measure to prevent the aforementioned bacterial infections from occurring/when there is no evidence of a bacterial infection being present, this can actually do more harm than you might realize – as when you take an antibiotic when it’s not necessary, that medication can become less effective over time – and when you really, truly need an antibiotic to fight a bacterial infection, the antibiotic in which you are prescribed may not work and the infection may be more difficult to treat. This is because bacteria tends to be sneaky, and when it repeatedly comes into contact with antibiotics the bacteria attempts to change and rearrange itself in order to survive and thrive in the body. When this occurs, a new strain of bacterial, known as a “superbug”, develops, and that bacteria then becomes resistant to certain antibiotics. When this happens, it may not even be harder to treat your illness, but the resistant bacteria can also spread to those around you. In addition, it may take several different antibiotics being prescribed to you until one is found that works, which can also prolong your illness.

It’s also important to note that there are many different, unpleasant side effects that come along with the use of antibiotics, including nausea and vomiting, dizziness, diarrhea, and even yeast infections – and your doctor may even need to recommend or prescribe you medication on top of the antibiotics you’re taking to help ease these side effects – so it’s unnecessary to put yourself in this kind of predicament when antibiotics are not required.

Something else that you should not do is take any old antibiotics you have left over from a previous prescription. Even if a bacterial infection is present and an antibiotic is required, taking antibiotics that were previously prescribed is bad for a few reasons: First and foremost, you likely won’t have enough of the medication – and secondly, the medication may be expired. Medications that have past their expiration date not only lose some of their potency, but some expired medications can also be toxic – which can make you sick. Therefore if you don’t finish a medication or have older medications lying around at home, it’s important that you don’t take them and instead return them to your pharmacy so that they can be disposed of properly. If you happen to have any over-the-counter medications such as Tylenol or Advil, these typically last for longer periods of time (a year or two), but always double check the packaging just to make sure it hasn’t expired, and don’t leave medication out in the open exposed to extreme heat or extreme cold. These types of OTC medications are best stored at room temperature.