ZocdocAnswersShould I get antibiotics for my cough and sore throat?

Question

Should I get antibiotics for my cough and sore throat?

I am a 21 year old female student that has had a bad, deep cough for about 8 days now. I have coughed up mucous for the same amount of time as well. From the cough, I have acquired a sore throat. I do currently smoke tobacco and cannabis, but have never had this bad of a cough with such mucous build-up before. Could I potentially have a virus? Should I go get antibiotics from my doctor to get rid of these symptoms?

Answer

Typically the constellation of symptoms of coughing, sore throat and congestion are the result of a viral infection, such as the common cold. These symptoms can linger for a while, but most people have improvement or resolution of symptoms within one to two weeks. Generally, symptomatic treatment is the preferred route, including nasal decongestants, nasal saline spray, and throat lozenges to soothe your sore throat. The viral syndrome that you are likely describing will not respond to antibiotics, as these medications are only effective against bacteria. Bacterial infections tend to be more severe than viral infections, usually causing fevers and generalized weakness. Strep throat (also known as Streptococcal pharyngitis) can present somewhat similar to a viral respiratory infection, but usually presents with fever, absence of cough, a coating of the tonsils in the back of the throat, and tender enlarged lymph nodes in the neck. If your symptoms do not get better in the next few days or you develop any further symptoms that are concerning to you, such as fever or shortness of breath, then you should see your primary care physician for further work-up. Additionally, you should know that stopping smoking is the best possible thing you can do for your health at this point.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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