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When Antibiotics Are Needed

Question

How does a parent know what is a simple cold and what is more complicated or when antibiotics are needed? Is it the presence of green nasal discharge or a fever?

Answer

It's a commonly held belief that green nasal discharge is an indication that antibiotics are needed. But green nasal discharge for a few days can be a normal part of a regular viral cold. A green discharge by itself is not a good reason to start antibiotics and does not indicate that the child has developed a sinus infection. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has said that thick, discolored nasal discharge is a normal part of a cold and is not a reason for antibiotics unless it lasts longer than 10 to 14 days without any improvement.

A fever is part of the body's way of fighting the virus. The virus is happiest at 98.6 degrees, so a fever is generally a good thing when you are sick. And it does not mean that antibiotics are needed for a cold.

 

All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.