News and Notices

Do I need antibiotics? Dr. Elizabeth Wood answers

Do I need antibiotics?

Elizabeth Wood EDM

Dr. Elizabeth Wood, Chair Clinical Governance Group

The answer is almost always no.

Antibiotics do not work for viruses like flu and COVID-19 or for common side effects of winter illnesses like Sinusitis.  Antibiotics are used for infections caused by bacteria, such as pneumonia. Using antibiotics when they aren’t needed can kill off a lot of the good bacteria in your gut, and can also mean that bacterial infections in the future could be more resistant to the antibiotics and thus more difficult to treat.

Green or yellow mucus alone doesn’t mean you need antibiotics, although if there is blood in your mucus please get in touch with your health provider.


It is normal for your nasal mucus to change from clear to yellow  to green or brown over the course of a viral infection as the mucus gets older and fuller of immune cells.

Reasons to seek help with winter illnesses:

  • Being unwell for 3-4 days and getting worse
  • Increasing shortness of breath
  • Chest pain or severe headache
  • Cough with large amounts of coloured or blood-stained phlegm/ sputum/ spit
  • Unable to drink / not passing urine / persistent vomiting
  • Increased confusion
  • Skin rash that does not disappear when pressed on
  • Babies taking less than half their usual feeds


Learn more about antibiotic resistance