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Can I Feel Better Without Antibiotics?

Antibiotics are a powerful medical tool and can even save lives, but they aren’t a cure-all. 

The truth is, antibiotics will only make you feel better if they’re prescribed for a bacterial infection. That means that common viral infections will be completely unaffected by antibiotics. 

Luckily, respiratory viruses like the flu, most cases of bronchitis and the common cold usually go away in a week or two, no antibiotics needed. 

In the meantime, you can keep yourself and your family healthy by following the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

Infographic from CDC: Can I Feel Better Without Antibiotics?

Here, we’ll dive into each of those recommendations, so you can try to stay healthy and help prevent others from getting sick without antibiotics.

1. Clean Hands

washing hands in the sink

Handwashing is one of the easiest and simplest ways to keep yourself, your family and anyone else you come into contact with safer from contracting illness.

According to the CDC, handwashing education in communities has a measurable impact on health. In fact, such education can reduce respiratory illnesses like the common cold by up to 21 percent. To observe good handwashing practices when you’re sick, always be sure to wash your hands:

  • Before, during and after preparing food.
  • After using the restroom.
  • Before and after caring for a child or other person.
  • After blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing.

When washing your hands, always:

  • Use soap and warm to hot running water.
  • Lather the back and front of hands, as well as between fingers.
  • Scrub for at least 20 seconds.
  • Rinse hands with running water.
  • Dry hands on a clean paper towel or towel (or you can simply air-dry instead).

For more, check out the resources from the CDC on handwashing.

If you don’t have access to soap and running water at any of those times, the CDC recommends that you use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol.

2. Cover Coughs and Sneezes

young girl covering her mouth with her arm

Image source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Disease of the Week - Common Cold”

As the CDC reports, viruses like the common cold can spread from one person to another through the air. Uncovered coughing or sneezing can project infected droplets of saliva into the air, which other people may then inhale or touch.

To make sure your coughs and sneezes don’t infect others, be sure to either:

  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue, then immediately throw the tissue away.
  • Or, cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve, not into your hands.

Always clean your hands after coughing or sneezing, too, preferably with soap and running water.

3. Stay Home When Sick

woman holding a cup in her hands

Although you might be reluctant to miss work or school, failing to stay home when you’re sick won’t just put other people at risk for infection — it may also hinder your recovery.

As the CDC states, there are two things you should do to feel better as quickly as possible:

  • Get plenty of rest.
  • Ingest plenty of fluids.

After all, who doesn’t want to cozy up with a warm blanket and a cup of tea when recovering from an illness?

4. Get Recommended Vaccines

physician injecting syringe on patient

While vaccines like the flu vaccine can’t help you feel better when you already have the flu, they can help you avoid getting sick in the first place.

In fact, you can get vaccinated to prevent several types of common viral infections. These include:

  • The flu.
  • Measles, mumps and rubella.
  • Chickenpox.
  • Shingles.

See the CDC’s list of vaccines used in the U.S. to view all the vaccines you can get.

Remember, you can always stop by your local GoHealth Urgent Care center to receive flu shots. Click below to find a center nearest you.


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