Antibiotics for Cold, Flu and COVID-19

Close-up image of woman blowing nose into a tissue, wearing a large scarf. Overlaid text reads "Antibiotics don't work against cold, flu and COVID-19. Thing you need to know."

Antibiotics for cold, flu and COVID-19 do not work

Antibiotics treat bacterial infections. Colds, COVID-19 and the flu are viral infections, so antibiotics won’t help. Using antibiotics when you have these illnesses can lead to the development of antibiotic resistant bacteria.

There are a few ways to help prevent colds, flu and COVID-19

  • Wash your hands with plain soap for 20 seconds
  • Get your COVID-19 vaccine and annual flu shot
  • Stay home when you are sick
  • Visit the BCCDC website for more information on preventing COVID-19

How can I treat colds and the flu? 

The best way to recover from a cold or flu is to drink plenty of fluids, get rest, and give your body time to do its job.  

Do I have COVID-19?

If you experience any of these symptoms, stay home and contact your healthcare provider. You may just have a cold or the flu but stay home to keep others safe. Here is a link to the BC COVID-19 Self-assessment Tool

Symptoms of COVID-19 include new or worsening:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Loss of sense of smell or taste
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Sore throat
  • Loss of appetite
  • Runny nose
  • Sneezing
  • Extreme fatigue or tiredness
  • Headache
  • Body aches
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

COVID-19 symptoms can range from mild to severe. Sometimes people with COVID-19 have mild illness, but their symptoms may suddenly worsen in a few days.

Go to an urgent care clinic or emergency department if you:

  • find it hard to breathe
  • have chest pain
  • can’t drink anything
  • feel very sick
  • feel confused


Antibiotics, Cold and Flu Video

Antibiotics treat bacterial infections and can be life-saving. But, antibiotics won’t kill viruses like cold and flu.

Say Naaah Poster

A poster suitable for doctor’s offices, community centres and other public locations. Open up and think twice about antibiotics.

Get a Flu Vaccine

Book a flu shot near you.

Choosing Wisely – Cold and Flu

Antibiotics don’t help most respiratory infections, and they can even be harmful. See ways you can help treat symptoms from colds and flu without unnecessary antibiotics.

Guide to Wise Use of Antibiotics

Booklet with information on antibiotics, antibiotic resistance, and managing common illnesses.

How to Wash Your Hands Poster

Poster with the six steps for proper hand washing.

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