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What does it mean to be antibiotics aware?

Photo of blue and white pills in a clear plastic bottle against a white-gray backdrop.

During cold and flu season, Veterans may be tempted to use previous antibiotics they were prescribed, but will antibiotics really help you feel better?

It's cold and flu season! The Tennessee Valley Healthcare System antimicrobial team, primary care providers, and urgent care teams want to share helpful tips for the season. 

  • Colds can cause runny nose, sore throat, cough, feeling tired and elevated temperatures.
  • MOST colds are caused by viruses.  
  • Antibiotics will not make you feel better faster because they cannot kill viruses.
  • Antibiotics can cause rash, diarrhea, or kidney and liver damage.
  • Taking antibiotics, if you don’t need them, raises your risk of having an infection that is harder to treat.

What can help?

Wash Your Hands - Wash your hands often. Use soap and water.

Wear a Mask – In 2020, more people wore masks. Flu infections dropped by 98 percent.

Get Vaccinated

  • COVID-19 booster vaccines are suggested for:
    • All adults 65 years and older
    • People with high-risk medical problems
    • People with increased contact with COVID-19 because of their job
  • The yearly flu vaccine can be given at the same time as COVID-19.
  • If you are older than 65, get your one-time pneumonia vaccine.

Treat Your Symptoms — Cold symptoms usually last 10-14 days, but symptoms can last longer. A cough from a cold can last up to 6-8 weeks.

  • Sore Throat: Gargle salt water 2-3 times daily. Eat a teaspoon of honey 1-2 times per day. Drink iced or cold drinks to help treat sore throat.
  • Runny Nose: You can buy saline (salt water) spray at your local pharmacy. Squirt saline spray into each side of your nose 2-3 times per day to treat a runny nose.
  • Cough: You can buy guaifenesin (Mucinex) at a local pharmacy to treat a cough, or ask your doctor about other ways to treat cough.


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