top of page
  • Writer's pictureManalapan Spine Care

Is it Viral or Bacterial and... do I need Antibiotics?

It’s winter and it’s cold. People around you are coughing and sneezing - some have fevers. And now, you think you may have, “it”. Could it be a cold, flu, strep throat, sinusitis, and do I need antibiotics? It is important to know the difference between a viral and bacterial infection.


  • Viruses are smaller than bacteria and must have a living host - such as a person, animal

  • or plant, to survive.

  • Once a virus enters the body, it attaches itself to cells and reprograms the cells to reproduce.

  • Most viruses (unlike bacteria) do cause disease which include the common cold, influenza, gastroenteritis and herpes, as well as some of the more dangerous diseases - HIV and Hepatitis.

  • Some vaccines are offered to help prevent virus (i.e. polio, measles, flu) or antiviral drugs may be recommended for treatment. Often, a virus will resolve on its own without treatment.

  • Do antibiotics work on viruses? Antibiotics are not effective against viruses (CDC).


  • Bacteria are single-cell microorganisms that can reproduce on their own, without a host.

  • They are found everywhere - in the soil, water and air, as well as on plants and animals.

  • Most bacteria are harmless, and some provide benefits (aid in digestion and help to destroy disease).

  • Less than 1% of bacteria can cause disease, such as strep throat, bronchitis, UTI, sinus infection, pneumonia or tuberculosis.

  • Antibiotics are often prescribed as treatment, however - overuse can lead to creating a resistant strain. It is important to note that antibiotics can also kill the “good” or “healthy” bacteria in the body.

How are bacteria and viruses similar?

Whether a viral or bacterial infection, both may be spread through:

  • Contact with an infected person, animal or insect

  • Coughing and sneezing

  • Contact with food/water or surface that is contaminated

In regard to answering the question - How are bacteria and viruses similar? They both may have similar symptoms:

  • Coughing

  • Sneezing

  • Fever

  • Sore Throat

  • Fatigue

  • Muscle Aches

  • Vomiting

  • Diarrhea

If you are experiencing symptoms, it is important to be evaluated, especially because treatment varies, based upon the diagnosis. Your healthcare practitioner will evaluate your medical history and conduct a physical examination. If necessary, additional tests may be recommended - such as blood, urine or stool tests.

Once a diagnosis is made, treatment may consist of over-the-counter or prescription medication. Additionally, there are several drug-free recommendations (with your doctor’s approval), which may be beneficial:

  • Rest

  • Drinking plenty of fluids

  • Avoid smoking (including second hand)

  • Humidifier or cool water vaporizer

  • Gargling with salt water

  • Crushed ice, lozenges or honey for a sore throat

Key to staying healthy is to practice good hygiene (wash hands) and keeping your immune system healthy - eat a balanced diet, exercise (with your doctor’s approval), avoid harmful lifestyle habits (tobacco, excess alcohol), maintain structural balance with regular chiropractic care and reduce stress (therapeutic massage and acupuncture).

Many patients come to Manalapan Spine Care and Rehabilitation with concerns, which we address:

  • Do antibiotics work on viruses?

  • What is the difference between a viral and bacterial infection?

  • Do I need antibiotics?

To learn more or schedule an appointment with Alison Griffin, RN, MSN, NP-C of Manalapan Spine Care and Rehabilitation, please call 732-972-5900. New patients, as well as walk-ins are being accepted. Alison is available with an appointment Monday 9-6, Wednesday 9-6, Thursday 9-2, Friday 9-5. Walk-in availability Monday/ Wednesday 9-1 and 3-5, Thursday/ Friday 9-1.

29 views0 comments


bottom of page