There’s been a bug that’s been passed around the office and now it’s come to you. You’re in bed, feeling lousy and your nose is running so much that you’re about to run out of tissues. All you want is for some medications to relieve you of this horrible feeling, but your GP is reluctant to prescribe you antibiotics. Why won’t he help you get over your cold?

Do Antibiotics Help With the Common Cold?

For the most part, infections are either caused by bacteria or viruses. The symptoms of the common cold are almost always caused by viruses, most commonly rhinovirus. Meanwhile, antibiotics are only able to have an effect on bacteria. Therefore, it is important to understand that taking antibiotics will not have any effect on the virus causing the common cold symptoms, and will not improve the symptoms of the common cold at all.

But what’s the big deal? Why can’t the doctor prescribe you antibiotics anyway just in case it is a bacterial infection?

What is Antibiotic Resistance?

Antibiotics have been designed to kill off bacteria and stop bacterial colonies from growing. However, if a certain antibiotic is overused, a strain of bacteria may be able to develop a resistance to that antibiotic and therefore be able to continue to grow despite the use of that antibiotic.

If we continue to overuse antibiotics, we may end up with strains of bacteria which are resistant to multiple different types of antibiotics, resulting in bugs that are unable to be killed off by medication and therefore can continue to grow and cause more serious infections like meningitis or sepsis. This would be a serious problem for public and global health.

What Should I Do?

To prevent the development of antibiotic resistance, it is important to only use antibiotics when the doctor recommends doing so. It is also important to complete the course of antibiotics that the doctor has prescribed for you, rather than only taking the antibiotics until you feel better.

The common cold is best treated with simple symptom management, including simple pain relief, tissues and nasal sprays, and lots of rest!


Centre for Disease Control, 2018. Common Cold and Runny Nose [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 01 April 2018]

Family Doctor 2018. Antibiotics: When They Can and Can’t Help [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 01 April 2018].

If you are interested in learning more about this topic, feel free to book an appointment with one of our friendly doctors by booking online or contacting us by phone on 8269 6000.

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