Ask Dr. Marla: Cold or Virus?

By Dr. Marla Shapiro on March 23, 2010

Click here to submit your question for consideration by Dr. Marla.


Q
I am always confused about what a cold is, and what a virus is. How do I know? And will antibiotics work?

A. A cold is an infection of the upper respiratory tract. As a result, the symptoms can range from watery eyes, a runny nose, sneezing, sore throat and feeling congested.
The cause of a cold is viral, therefore, a virus and a cold are one and the same. According to the Mayo Clinic, there are more than 200 viruses that can cause a cold. Treatment for any viral infection, be it a cold or a fl u-like illness caused by a virus, is usually only to treat the symptoms.
A cold will generally pass over the course of a few days. Antibiotics are not used to treat any viral infection as they are not effective against these kinds of infections. In fact, the use of antibiotics with a viral illness can cause antibiotic resistance and it is very important that antibiotics not be used when they are not needed.

Published in Spring 2009

Click here to submit your question for consideration by Dr. Marla.




By Dr. Marla Shapiro| March 23, 2010

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