FORT LEE, Va. (April 4, 2013) -- When you feel sick, you want to get better fast, however, antibiotics are not always the answer for a speedy recovery. They can actually be harmful when they are prescribed and not needed. Taking them when there isn't a reason to can create antibiotic resistance.

Antibiotics are powerful drugs, but they are not the cure for every illness. When antibiotics are misused, bacteria can become resistant and then has the potential to threaten your life in subsequent situations where antibiotics would have helped.

Two types of germs make our bodies sick -- viruses and bacteria.

Viruses cause most upper respiratory infections such as colds, flu, coughs and sore throats. These illnesses do not get better when treated with antibiotics. Viruses are best handled by treating the symptoms and letting your body's immune system fight the germs.

Bacteria cause some infections, like strep throat, and usually get better when treated with antibiotics. Only your medical provider can decide if an antibiotic is needed to treat your illness.

There are several problems with taking an antibiotic to treat a virus. They can cause side effects and over use of antibiotics may lead to the growth of resistant bacteria.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are several options instead of taking antibiotics for a virus. For upper respiratory infections, such as sore throats, ear infections, sinus infections, colds, and bronchitis, CDC recommends getting plenty of rest, drinking lots of fluids and consider using a humidifier or cool mist vaporizer. Also, it's important to avoid smoking, second-hand smoke, and other pollutants (airborne chemicals or irritants). For adults, you can take acetaminophen, ibuprofen or naproxen to relieve pain or fever (for children, it's best to consult your doctor's office first to find out what is safe to give to your child).

For children and adults, over-the-counter pain relievers, decongestants and saline nasal sprays may help relieve some symptoms. Remember, always use over-the-counter products as directed. Many over-the-counter products are not recommended for children younger than certain ages.

Over-the-counter medicines may help relieve symptoms such as runny nose, congestion, fever and aches, but they do not shorten the length of time you or your child is sick.

To relieve sore throat irritation, according to the CDC, use ice chips, sore throat spray, or lozenges (do not give lozenges to young children). Use a clean humidifier or cool mist vaporizer

Take acetaminophen, ibuprofen or naproxen to relieve pain or fever (read about what is safe to give your child). For more information on other treatments, visit

Remember, antibiotics are powerful drugs and are not always the best cure.