How to protect yourself against viral & bacterial infections

With cold and flu season quickly upon us, how do you know what types of illnesses are viral or bacterial? Will you need an antibiotic to get better? Health care providers at Spectrum Health are hoping to educate their patients on what types of conditions are bacterial and when antibiotics are needed.

Kaitlin Dennis, PA-C talks about some common infections, and what is needed to cure them.

Viral infections are caused by a virus, not bacteria, which means that antibiotics aren't needed to get better. Antibiotics will not improve recovery time for conditions like the common cold and bronchitis, so viral infections need to heal on their own.

Bacterial conditions are caused by bacteria, so conditions like strep throat, urinary tract infections, and pneumonia need antibiotics to get better. Antibiotics must be taken as prescribed and must be completely finished, even if you're feeling better. Taking medicine as directed limits antibiotic resistance in the community, so the medicine will be more effective.

In order to battle both viral and bacterial infections, people need to practice the following habits to prevent the spread of germs:

  • Wash hands frequently
  • Catch/cover coughs
  • Stay home when sick
  • Get recommended vaccines (like the flu shot)

If you do get sick, the following places will provide patients with the medicines they need:

  • Primary Care Providers/Urgent Care Providers
  • Spectrum Health Walk-In Clinics
  • MedNow
  • When in doubt, give them a call

To find a location of the nearest Spectrum Health Medical Group Urgent Care, visit

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