When a cold, flu or other illness is wearing you down and you want to get better fast, is an antibiotic the answer? Generally not, say most medical experts.

“In fact, an antibiotic could do more harm than good,” says Shane Brooks, DO, a clinical care director for MultiCare Urgent Care. “When you visit a MultiCare Indigo Urgent Care clinic, you may not be given an antibiotic — and for good reason.”

Antibiotic resistance is growing

What exactly is antibiotic resistance?

“When bacteria, or germs, defeat the antibiotic medication that was designed to stop their growth, it’s called antibiotic resistance,” explains Dr. Brooks.

Antibiotic resistance is a growing public health threat in the United States and across the globe, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). More and more people are facing this issue. Last year, in fact, more than 20,000 people died because the antibiotic(s) they were given for their illness couldn’t beat the germ they were designed to kill.

Some conditions require an antibiotic

Indigo Urgent Care medical providers are trained to review your symptoms, your test results and the information you share with them to make the best clinical judgment. Their goal is to follow the CDC’s guidelines — and only prescribe an antibiotic for conditions that require it:

Some conditions don’t require an antibiotic

Other conditions, those that are likely viral, typically don’t require an antibiotic.

“When this happens,” says Dr. Brooks, “Indigo providers aim to educate patients and their families about why an antibiotic isn’t the best treatment.”

Some examples of viral conditions that do not require antibiotics include:

• Flu

• Sore throat (unless it’s strep throat)

• Common cold and runny nose

• Bronchitis

“Colds and bronchial conditions can hang on — for weeks sometimes, which can be very annoying,” says Dr. Brooks. “It’s hard to be patient when we don’t feel well. But it’s also a good idea, whenever possible, to let our bodies do what they’re supposed to do and fight off the cold or bronchial condition naturally.”

It doesn’t mean you won’t get an antibiotic if you need it. There are some illnesses that fall into a gray area, including sinus infections and ear infections. In these cases, your medical provider will consider whether other treatments such as flushing the sinuses, home remedies and over-the-counter medications will help clear the infection, without prescribing an antibiotic. Sometimes a steroid can be prescribed for a bad cough or for a sinus infection because decreasing inflammation can be very beneficial and relieve unpleasant symptoms for many people.

Be an advocate for your health

Whether your symptoms follow these criteria or not, it’s important to share your complete story with your provider. Be sure to communicate what’s the most bothersome part of your illness and ask any questions you may have. Every Indigo Urgent Care team member wants to help you or your child feel better. Your health is the top priority.

Tips for staying healthy during cold and flu season

There are steps you can take to avoid illness this time of the year.

• Get your flu shot.

• Wash your hands.

• Avoid people who may be sick or have a cold.

• If you have a bad cold or the flu, stay home from work or school.

Nobody likes being sick, and we all want to get better as soon as possible. When you visit Indigo Urgent Care, your provider will partner with you to determine the best way to relieve your symptoms and make you more comfortable, with or without an antibiotic. Visit IndigoUrgentCare.com to find a location near you.