Fighting Infection Without Antibiotics

By Katharine Paljug @kpaljug
July 27, 2018

Wondering how to fight infection without antibiotics? For uncomplicated infections, it is possible to recover with rest and safe home remedies. Learn more.

Antibiotics save lives every day. But they are not always necessary to treat common infections, and using them too often can contribute to the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Luckily, it is often possible to get healthy without using antibiotics.


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What is antibiotic resistance?

Antibiotic resistance is the ability of certain bacteria to resist the drugs that are used to kill them and stop the spread of infection.

When bacteria are exposed to antibiotics, some of them develop new traits that allow them to survive treatment by antibiotics. These traits are passed on to new generations of bacteria, creating more drug-resistant infections.

Antibiotic-resistant infections are difficult and expensive to treat. For children, the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems, they can prove fatal, even if the initial illness was mild. Some scientists estimate that by 2050, drug-resistant infections will cause more deaths than cancer.

Bacteria are exposed to antibiotics in a variety of ways, including when antibiotics are given to farm animals to increase their growth or egg production. Many researchers also point to the over-prescribing of antibiotics by physicians as a culprit in the rise of resistant bacteria. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that antibiotics are incorrectly or unnecessarily prescribed as much as 50 percent of the time.

To limit the overuse of antibiotics and combat the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, many medical researchers and doctors are beginning to recommend that sick patients first attempt to get healthy without antibiotics and seek medication only as a second treatment option.

Fighting infection without antibiotics

For those who are generally in good health, there are treatment options for common illnesses that don’t rely on antibiotics.

For complaints such as rhinosinusitis, sore throats, and bronchitis, the CDC recommends avoiding antibiotics and focusing on managing symptoms. Most uncomplicated illnesses require rest and time in order to heal, and in many cases antibiotics will only speed your recovery by a day or two at most.

You can also help your body get healthy without antibiotics by using safe home remedies to relieve symptoms and fight bacterial infections.

Home remedies for infections

If you have a sinus infection, your symptoms will generally resolve on their own within seven to 10 days, especially if you rest. Antibiotics usually will not help, but nasal irrigation with a neti pot and saline water has been shown to relieve sinus pressure and decrease congestion.

Bromelain, an enzyme found in pineapple, can reduce inflammation when taken as a supplement. Research has found that it helps relieve symptoms of bronchitis and sinusitis.

Essential oils, when diluted and used in aromatherapy or as sprays, can help you get healthy without antibiotics. Rosemary, eucalyptus, and mint essential oils can relieve symptoms of upper respiratory tract infections. Palmarosa, lavender, evening primrose, peppermint, tea tree, and thyme oil are antimicrobial and can help kill bacteria.

Hot drinks such as tea can relieve symptoms of runny nose, cough, sneezing, and sore throat that are caused by many upper respiratory infections.

Do you need antibiotics for a cold?

Viral infections like the common cold should never be treated with antibiotics. This is because antibiotics only work against bacteria. Taking antibiotics for a virus will not help you get healthy.

If you have a cold or other viral infection, taking time to rest is the best way to recover.

How to treat a UTI without antibiotics

Most urinary tract infections (UTIs) are caused by bacteria and can be treated with antibiotics. However, research has found that in many cases, uncomplicated UTIs are able to resolve on their own without antibiotic use.

Drinking plenty of water and green tea, eating fermented foods, and taking the supplement D-mannose can help your body recover from a UTI without antibiotics.

When to take antibiotics

It is not always possible to get healthy without antibiotics. If your symptoms persist for more than a week or become worse, you may need antibiotics or another form of treatment to help your body recover.

Though the medical community is attempting to decrease the use of antibiotics, they are still an effective form of treatment for many diseases, including serious infections. You should always talk to your doctor to decide the best course of treatment for any illness, with or without using antibiotics.


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March 26, 2020

Reviewed By:  

Janet O’Dell, RN