Do I Need Antibiotics?
Oftentimes, when someone gets sick and it doesn’t go away within a few days, their first instinct is to seek out antibiotics. While antibiotics have saved the lives of countless people, they aren’t always necessary. In fact, when a person has a viral illness, they can actually do more harm than good.

Even so, many people struggle to understand how this can be the case. Understanding the differences between bacterial and viral infections can help clear things up. However, that isn’t the only problem.

There is also an antibiotic resistance crisis beginning to take shape. More and more strains of bacteria are developing resistance to drugs that once easily cured infections. The overuse of antibiotics is a large contributor to this problem.

When someone gets sick, they shouldn’t automatically seek out antibiotics. Instead, they should ask themselves, “Do I need antibiotics?” Fortunately, that doesn’t need to be an impossible question to answer.

 What is the Difference Between Bacteria and Viruses?
It can be very difficult for someone who isn’t in the medical field to tell the difference between a viral infection and a bacterial infection. In fact, it often requires some form of laboratory testing to know for sure. Although some conditions, like UTIs, are almost exclusively caused by bacteria, other sicknesses like bronchitis and sinus infections could be the result of either a virus or bacteria. In those cases, it can be very hard for a layperson to tell the difference.

On a cellular level, bacteria and viruses couldn’t be more different. Bacteria are one-celled living organisms that must feed and reproduce in order to survive. On the other hand, viruses aren’t actually living organisms on their own. They must infect a human host cell to survive. Meanwhile, some strains of bacteria, such as those found in your gut, are helpful and necessary for life. The same cannot be said for viruses.

How to Tell if You Have a Viral or Bacterial Infection
Though it can be difficult to tell the difference between a viral and bacterial illnesses, there are a few things to look for at home. Perhaps the most important sign is how long a person has been sick. If an illness has lasted for more than about a week, it might be time to get it evaluated by a professional. Most viruses tend to clear up on their own without the need for intervention beyond medicine to keep symptoms at bay. Unfortunately, bacterial infections need antibiotic treatment and usually don’t start improving until the medications are given.

Another common sign of bacterial illnesses is green or yellow colored mucus or snot. While many viral infections leave people with a runny nose, their drainage is typically clear. Those with a bacterial infection might have colored drainage. Though, it is important to note that this is not a definitive sign.

Finally, for throat-related conditions, the actual appearance of the throat comes into play. For example, those with strep throat, a bacterial infection, often have white patches on their throat and tonsils while someone with a viral throat infection won’t. Once again, this isn’t an absolute sign. If strep throat is suspected, it should be evaluated by a medical professional.

Will Antibiotics Help Me Feel Better?
It can be tricky to prescribe antibiotics. In some cases, doctors can’t determine with certainty whether an illness is being caused by a virus or bacteria. Many choose to play it on the safe side and prescribe the antibiotics. Others will order more lab testing and wait to see the results.

Ultimately, antibiotics aren’t a fix-all solution. For someone with a viral illness, they won’t help fix the problem at all. Only if a person has a bacterial infection will antibiotics start working to cure them and, in turn, alleviate their symptoms.

 What is Antibiotic Resistance?
Nationwide, the problem of antibiotic resistance is growing. It is due to many factors, but one of the leading ones is the overuse of antibiotics by healthcare prescribers. Doing so allows bacteria to encounter the medication and form resistance to it. Then, when that particular antibiotic is given again, it is no longer effective. This growing problem has already led to the development of new infections that can’t be treated with traditional antibiotics.

 Velocity Urgent Care is Here No Matter What
Determining what type of infection you have is hard. So, next time you fall ill, leave it to the board-certified physicians and experienced providers at Velocity Urgent Care. Our staff is knowledgeable, friendly, and ready to answer your questions. Our facilities offer a range of instant labs on site for quick results to help discover what type of infection you’re suffering from. If it is bacterial, our providers can prescribe antibiotics to get you through it. If it’s viral, we can provide treatments to help manage your symptoms and get you back on your feet.

Whether you’ve got strep throat, bronchitis, an earache, a urinary tract infection, a fever, or a sinus infection, Velocity Urgent Care is here to help. Stop in to any of our convenient locations across Hampton Roads, Northern and Southern Virginia for top-notch care on your schedule. You can also book an appointment online ahead of time or walk in and be seen by our friendly staff at any time.

We are the exclusive in-network provider for several local insurance plans, meaning you can be seen for the cost of your co-pay and deductible. All Velocity Urgent Care locations also accept Medicare, Medicaid, and Tricare and we also see qualifying Veterans Administration beneficiaries.