Bacterial vs. Viral Infections - Do You Know the Difference?

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

Both viral and bacterial infections will make you feel sick and they share many of the same symptoms.

But, did you know that:

  • a cold or flu virus usually lasts only up to 10 days while illnesses caused by bacteria usually last more than two weeks?
  • cold and flu symptoms - runny noses, watery eyes, dry coughs, sore throats, chills, aches and pains - are caused by viruses, not bacteria?
  • adults who have a sore throat without significant fever most likely do not have a bacterial infection, such as strep throat? - their disease is more likely to be caused by a virus.
  • most coughs do not need an antibiotic?

REMEMBER - If your symptoms suggest a viral infection, antibiotics won't help. Your doctor or pharmacist will be able to recommend medications to help you feel better while the virus runs its course.

Do I have a bacterial infection?

The following signs and symptoms, usually lasting longer than two weeks, suggest a bacterial infection:

  • a high, persistent temperature
  • a thick, coloured discharge from your nose
  • a chronic cough

REMEMBER - Antibiotics should only be used when they are truly needed - to cure a bacterial infection.

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Bacteria in Action | Bacterial vs. Viral Infections | Good and Not-So-Good Bacteria | The Evolution of Bacterial Resistance | Bacterial Infection Dictionary