Acute Communicable Disease Control
Antibiotic Resistance Education


What is Antibiotic Resistance?

What are bacteria?
Bacteria are germs that can be found everywhere - outdoors and indoors. They can also be found on the outside and inside of our bodies. Certain kinds of bacteria can be helpful like those found in the stomach that help digest food. Other kinds of bacteria can be harmful germs that make us sick.

Learn more about the differences between bacteria & viruses

What are antibiotics?
Antibiotics are strong medicines that can kill bacteria and only bacteria. Antibiotics don't work against viruses which are germs that can cause illnesses such as the common cold and flu.

What is antibiotic resistance?
Bacteria are able to grow stronger to fight off or become "resistant" against antibiotics. Taking antibiotics when they are not needed (like for the cold or flu) allows the bacteria to get used to them. As a result, when we are sick with a bacterial infection, antibiotics may not work when we really do need them.

What can I do to help fight the problem of antibiotic resistance?
If the doctor prescribes you an antibiotic, make sure with him/her that the cause of your illness is a bacterial infection. Don't expect an antibiotics if you are sick with a viral infection like the cold or flu. Only take antibiotics as prescribed from your doctor. Never give leftover antibiotics to someone else or take leftover antibiotics from someone else.

When are antibiotics needed?
Antibiotics are needed for bacterial infections such as strep throat. Sometimes they may be needed for middle ear and sinus infections.

When are antibiotics not needed?
Antibiotics are not needed for viral infections such as colds, flu (influenza), chest colds, bronchitis, and coughs. Most sore throats are caused by viruses that don't need an antibiotic. Yellow to green runny noses is not a sign that you need an antibiotic.

Learn more about when you do and don't need antibiotics

I have been taking prescribed antibiotics but now I feel better. Should I stop taking them?
No. You should take the full course of medication as directed by your doctor. The amount of antibiotic you took to make you may feel better isnít enough to kill all of the bacteria that got you sick. This allows remaining bacteria to survive and multiply.

What can I do if I have the cold or flu?
There is no cure for the common cold or flu but there are ways to help make you feel better: (1) rest, (2) drink lots of fluids, (3) eat healthy foods, and (4) take over-the-counter medication such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen for fever, aches, or pain.

What can I do to keep myself from getting sick?
Wash your hands often and as thoroughly as possible. Your hands may look clean but they can carry germs that you canít see. Avoid rubbing or touching your eyes, nose, and mouth to prevent germs like bacteria or viruses from entering your body. Get your immunizations up-to-date and flu shots every year.

Back to Preventing and Controlling Antibiotic Resistance