The common cold is a viral infection that affects the upper respiratory tract. It is estimated that adults can get two to three colds per year, while children can get up to eight to ten. Even though antibiotics are one of the most commonly prescribed drugs, they are not an effective treatment for the common cold. This article discusses why antibiotics are ineffective in treating the common cold and explores alternative treatments.
What is the common cold?
The common cold is caused by a viral infection that affects the upper respiratory tract. It is spread through airborne droplets when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks. There are more than 200 types of viruses that can cause the common cold, but the rhinovirus is the most common.
Why are antibiotics ineffective in treating the common cold?
The common cold is caused by a virus, not bacteria
Antibiotics are designed to treat bacterial infections, not viral infections. The common cold is a viral infection, and antibiotics have no effect on viruses.
Antibiotics do not improve cold symptoms
Even though antibiotics are not effective in treating the common cold, they are often prescribed unnecessarily. Antibiotics cannot cure a viral infection, and taking them will not improve your cold symptoms. In fact, taking unnecessary antibiotics can lead to antibiotic resistance.
Antibiotic resistance is a growing problem worldwide. The overuse and misuse of antibiotics have led to the development of antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria, making it harder to treat bacterial infections. Taking unnecessary antibiotics for a viral infection such as the common cold can contribute to antibiotic resistance.
What are the alternative treatments for the common cold?
Rest and hydration
Rest is key to recovery when you have a cold. The virus can weaken your immune system and leave you feeling fatigued. Drinking plenty of fluids such as water, herbal tea, and broth will help to keep you hydrated and help alleviate symptoms such as congestion and sore throat.
Vitamins and supplements
Vitamins and supplements such as vitamin C, zinc, and echinacea have been shown to help reduce the severity and duration of cold symptoms. However, it is important to speak with your doctor before taking any new supplements.
Over-the-counter medications such as decongestants, antihistamines, and pain relievers can help alleviate cold symptoms such as congestion, runny nose, and headache. However, it is important to read and follow the instructions carefully.
Home remedies such as saline nasal sprays, steam inhalation, and honey and lemon drinks can help alleviate symptoms of the common cold. These remedies are generally safe and have very few side effects.
How can you prevent the common cold?
Wash your hands frequently
Washing your hands frequently can help prevent the spread of viruses that cause the common cold. Use soap and warm water and wash your hands for at least 20 seconds.
Avoid touching your face
The common cold is often spread when a person touches a contaminated surface and then touches their face. Try to avoid touching your face, especially your eyes, nose, and mouth.
Cover your coughs and sneezes
Covering your coughs and sneezes can help prevent the spread of viruses that cause the common cold. Use a tissue or your elbow to cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze.
Avoid close contact with sick people
Avoiding close contact with sick people can help prevent the spread of viruses that cause the common cold. If you are sick, stay home and avoid close contact with others.
Antibiotics are not an effective treatment for viral infections such as the common cold. Taking antibiotics unnecessarily can contribute to antibiotic resistance, making it harder to treat bacterial infections. Rest, hydration, over-the-counter medications, and home remedies can help alleviate the symptoms of the common cold. It is important to take steps to prevent the common cold by washing your hands frequently, avoiding close contact with sick people and covering your coughs and sneezes.
Here are some common questions and answers related to the topic:
Can antibiotics cure the common cold?
No, antibiotics are not effective in treating viral infections such as the common cold.
What are the symptoms of the common cold?
The symptoms of the common cold can include a runny or stuffy nose, sore throat, cough, and fatigue.
How long does the common cold last?
The common cold typically lasts 7-14 days.
Can over-the-counter medications help alleviate cold symptoms?
Yes, over-the-counter medications such as decongestants, antihistamines, and pain relievers can help alleviate the symptoms of the common cold.
What can I do to prevent the common cold?
You can prevent the common cold by washing your hands frequently, avoiding close contact with sick people, and covering your coughs and sneezes.
- Harvard Health Publishing. (2021). Should I take antibiotics for a cold or the flu? Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/should-i-take-antibiotics-for-a-cold-or-the-flu
- Mayo Clinic. (2020). Common cold. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/common-cold/symptoms-causes/syc-20351605
- National Institutes of Health. (2017). Common cold. Retrieved from https://www.niaid.nih.gov/diseases-conditions/common-cold