Do antibiotics fight viruses?

Have you ever felt a little under the weather, but couldn’t quite pinpoint what was wrong? You might have suspected a virus or bacterial infection. Perhaps in frustration, you’ve asked yourself “Do antibiotics fight viruses?” The answer may surprise you.


At some point in our lives, we’ve all had to turn to medical professionals for help. Whether it’s due to a pesky cold or flu, an unknown rash that won’t go away on its own (the nerve), or other circumstances beyond our control such as injury or surgery (couldn’t dodge that boulder coming down the hill… thanks physics!), everyone has had their share of moments when they’ve had to trust doctors and their advice.

Antibiotics are drugs used to treat infections caused by bacteria (such as strep throat) (you know those mean guys at parties that sneeze and cough on everything…gross) There is only one big problem when it comes to antibiotics – people tend not discriminate between which illnesses need them and which ones do not (insert face palm emoji here). They’re just too good at what they do: killing bacteria speedily before they can multiply out of control causing more serious health issues down the line.

However, this scenario begs another question – Can antibiotics cure viral diseases such as (drumroll please) COVID-19? Sorry for disappointing (I’m sure we want all these weird rules with emojis 😑) any curiosity seekers out there but let’s unpack this together shall we?


Before we dive in,safety first folks, let’s define these terms:

Viruses – Are tiny infectious agents made up of genetic material inside a protein coating (capsid). Some viruses also have an outer envelope covering made from fat-like substance. They can’t survive without invading cells your body cells because; unlike bacterial cells, viruses can’t reproduce on their own.

Antibiotics – Are medications specifically designed to destroy/become invisible to bacteria. They work in a variety of ways some drugs prevent the growth and reproduction of cells (preserving delicate tissues and keeping health biotic populations stable) while others destroy bacterial cells altogether.

Types of Infections

It’s all about context baby! Antibiotics are effective against infections caused by bacterias, but just bacterias not super powers folks like Iron Man or did I hear someone say Heimdalllll?…oh wait that was me asking for more cookies. Here’s an example below:

Antibiotic Use Type of Infection
Penicillin Strep Throat
Ceftriaxone Pneumonia
Doxycycline Acne, Lyme Disease

To reiterate: antibiotics do not kill viruses 😰 Some major viral illnesses include:

  • Common Cold
  • Flu
  • Most Coughs (with no signfungal infection)

These diseases require different over the counter options &/or treatments from your healthcare provider so let’s break them down.

Bacterial vs Viral Illnesses

First things first—your doctor must determine whether you have an infection caused by bacteria or virus. If it’s difficult at times for us with doctor google by our side 🤓considering we essentially self-diagnose ourselves before visiting the physician (Oh come on Susan you knew what WebMD would say beforehand you weren’t fooling anyone). . From symptoms alone your doctor can often tell if it’s viral or bacterial by assessing:

Symptom Bacterial Illness Viral Illness
Chest Congestion must see a dr for assessment! X 👈 Need an Assessment
Stuffy/runny nose X 👈 Need an Assessment (can’t tell from this symptom alone)
Fever Sometimes (such as strep throat)

Just like we humans are flawed so is the current medical field (shrugs don’t shoot the messenger). Although there has been tremendous progress in medicine innovation over the years, yet it’s still challenging to precisely know which infection one has at times that require antibiotics. One way around this obstacle would be getting blood work done 🧐 but let’s be honest no one wants to hurt themselves more than they need to just for our curiosity.


Antibiotics only target bacteria making them essentially ineffective against viruses such as COVID-19((did you hear me say that loudly enough?). It’s important to note taking them unnecessarily also drives up overall antibiotic resistance among populations across all regions (eek,guys that sucks right? It furthers health disparities and increases risks should medication resistance pull an uprising on us with subsequent infections becoming harder to treat enter drama music here

In some cases of minor illness where people largely use self-care daily measures such as rest, liquids and various other cold-fighting methods found online, virals symptoms(/signs) tend to resolve within days, over the counter medication can be quite helpful too. That said it’s always better to have a healthcare provider guide you towards whatever treatment plan while ensuring that antibiotics are only prescribed in appropriate situations.

Closing Thoughts

Well,in summary everyone shout with me… Antibiotics do not work against viruses 🎉🎊 . In fact, the incorrect use of antibiotics leads individuals to think they will cure anything like (eh-em I’m looking at you penicillins!😒) – this attitude puts our most vulnerable people (young children, elderly citizens or those with a suppressed immune system ) at risk for growing resistance both for them and by extension other healthy humans around us (Note all this was communicated without one penalty how cool is that right?!)

Random Posts