Autumn colds – and why antibiotics are not the answer

September 30, 2015

The return to school in autumn can often see an increase in the common cold, with symptoms including cough, sore throat, a runny nose or fever. Children and young people are most likely to suffer from and spread the cold virus, with the highest risk being in nurseries and schools.

The common cold is caused by any one of more than 200 different viruses. As all colds, and most coughs and sore throats, are caused by viruses there is no recognised cure and people generally get better on their own.

Antibiotics do not help with infections caused by viruses and only work against bacterial infections. Prescribing antibiotics unnecessarily can increase the risk of antibiotic resistance, which is a growing problem across the world and could result in bacterial infections that cannot be controlled or killed, with even minor infections becoming untreatable. The main cause of antibiotic resistance is the overuse and misuse of antibiotics.

Although it can seem frustrating to be sent home from the doctor without a prescription, antibiotics do have some side effects, like feeling sick and diarrhoea, and so should only be used when needed.

The best advice to help with the cold virus is for your child to drink more fluids to keep the body hydrated, take paracetamol and rest. A healthy diet high in fruit and vegetables providing plenty of vitamin C can help them fight colds. As a parent, washing your hands regularly is the easiest way to stop cold and flu viruses spreading.

For more information about how to manage a cold, please follow the link to the NHS website for further advice.