Should You Take Antibiotics For Your Cold?

With the winter rolling around, Penn State is soon to become–if it has not already–a dominion ruled over by terrible and inconvenient illnesses. Every single year, is typically the same. There is at least a month of absolute misery, whether that misery be a stuffy nose, a coarse throat, or an aching body. Every day, it seems, we are serenaded by coughs during our lectures. Illness is extremely pervasive throughout our student community here in Happy Valley, and, sometimes, it seems as though all we can do is weather the storm. But what if you decide to take an antibiotic for your ailment. Is this wise?


It may not seem like any harm, but evidence points towards a clear danger in taking an antibiotic for an ailment as simple as the common cold. A lot of the time, the symptoms complained about by those suffering from some sort of seasonal ailment cannot be helped by antibiotics in the first place. Ailments typically brought about by viruses, such as acute Bronchitis, for example, are not relieved in any way shape or form by taking an antibiotic. Distinguishing between an ailment that is caused by a virus, and an ailment that is caused by bacteria is a job most easily performed by a trained professional, yet, too often, we allow ourselves to self-diagnose. A lot of research done over the past few decades has shown us that a wanton use of antibiotics may be leading to a very scary, very possible future–resistance. 


Antibiotic resistance occurs when an antibiotic loses its ability to effectively control and curb the harmful effects of the bacteria that the antibiotic is created to combat. When an antibiotic is used, bacteria naturally seek to form a resistance to the substance so that they stand a greater chance of surviving an encounter with it. This leads to antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and, consequently, bacteria immune to medicine. Seeing as the common cold is a virus, it is more than likely never a good idea to take an antibiotic to combat it. 

Antibiotics are meant to treat bacterial infections. Afflictions such as pneumonia, strep throat, an ear infection, or conjunctivitis are valid pretenses for a doctor to prescribe something as drastic as an antibiotic–in this case, you will be both avoiding a chance to react allergically to the antibiotic, and, will also avoid building an unnecessary resistance. At the end of the day, everything passes in time. In the case of seasonal illness, however, if the symptoms and misery that you are experiencing linger, then it may be possible that you are suffering from a bacterial infection, and a visit to UHS may be warranted.