Is amoxicillin good for chest congestion?

    Any given adult will get a cold at least a couple of times a year—usually in the fall and winter . Kids can get many colds, maybe even half a dozen or more a year. When you get a cold, also known as an upper respiratory tract infection, should you visit your healthcare provider and get antibiotics?

    The truth is, antibiotics for respiratory infections aren’t going to make you feel better sooner, and they might even leave you with side effects that make you feel worse. 

    Colds are known medically as upper respiratory tract infections because they’re usually limited to the upper half of your respiratory system—the nose, sinuses, upper throat, larynx, and pharynx. These infections don’t, for example, include infections that affect your lungs, like pneumonia. 

    Steve Prezant/Getty

    Upper respiratory tract infections are usually caused by viruses, like rhinovirus, coronavirus, or influenza, though rarely (about 2% of the time) they are caused by bacteria. Bacteria that infect the upper respiratory tract are most often S. pyogenes (a group A streptococcus), or sometimes H influenzae.

    Due to the development and routine administration of the H. influenzae vaccine over the past 30 years, the incidence of this infection has dropped substantially.

    Generally, antibiotics shouldn’t be prescribed for upper respiratory tract infections, even when your healthcare provider suspects bacteria are the cause, because these infections tend to clear up on their own. Antibiotics have not been found to shorten the duration of illness or symptoms of the common cold. 

    Antibiotics may be prescribed in a few different situations: 

    • Your symptoms don’t clear up on their own within about 10 days.
    • The healthcare provider suspects a bacterial infection and it has spread to other parts of the upper respiratory system, including the pharynx, larynx, or epiglottis, especially when breathing is impacted or in young children.
    • A healthcare provider will prescribe antibiotics if your infection has spread to your lungs, causing pneumonia. 

    Upper Respiratory Infection Symptoms

    Common cold symptoms include:

    • Runny, stuffy nose 
    • Sneezing
    • Itchy, watery eyes
    • Sore throat 
    • Cough
    • Muscle pain or weakness 
    • Fatigue 
    • Headache

    Fever is a rare symptom of the common cold in adults but may be more likely in children. 

    Symptoms of an upper respiratory infection can last up to two weeks but usually peak at around three days and are gone within seven. Upper respiratory infections should clear up on their own without needing interventions from your healthcare provider.

     But complications of colds can occur, including:

    • Sinusitis: An infection in your sinuses causing pain and congestion
    • Otitis media: An ear infection causing pain
    • Pharyngitis: A sore throat, which might be strep throat
    • Epiglottitis: An infection and resulting swelling of the epiglottis, a flap of tissue that covers your windpipe, which can interfere with breathing
    • Laryngotracheitis: Infection of the larynx (which holds the vocal cords), trachea, or bronchi

    Some of these complications may require treatment with antibiotics. 

    Antibiotics Are Not Always Needed

    Most of the time, antibiotics are not indicated for use in treating the common cold or flu. A Cochrane report analyzing the available research into the use of antibiotics to treat colds, published in 2013, found that antibiotics do not work for the common cold, and side effects of antibiotics used for the common cold are common.  

    White, yellow, or even green (pus-colored) snot during your cold doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a bacterial infection, so it isn’t a reason to ask for antibiotics.

    Overuse and overprescription of antibiotics when they aren’t effective leads to the development of antibiotic-resistant infections . Not only is this a big problem for the entire world, but antibiotics can have nasty side effects for the person taking them.

    If you go to the healthcare provider with a cold, they’ll generally treat your symptoms, including suggesting you:

    • Hydrate with water or electrolyte sports drinks
    • Rest and let your body heal
    • Suck on lozenges, hard candies, or ice pops to soothe a sore throat
    • Try antihistamines or decongestants (like pseudoephedrine) for symptom relief
    • Use saline nose drops or sprays or a neti pot–style sinus rinse to help clear congestion 
    • Take pain relievers and fever reducers, including Tylenol (acetaminophen) and Advil (ibuprofen), to address those symptoms

    When Antibiotics Are Appropriate

    There are only a few situations in which your healthcare provider might prescribe antibiotics when you’re dealing with a cold or flu. Usually, these are secondary bacterial infections caused by the cold or flu symptoms that cause issues in the sinuses or other structures of the upper respiratory system. 

    Antibiotics may be helpful if common cold symptoms last for more than 10 days, the Cochrane report found.


    A sinus infection , or sinusitis, is the inflammation of the mucous membranes of the sinuses due to a viral or bacterial infection. The sinuses are hollow cavities in the bones of your face around your forehead and cheekbones.

    Sinusitis is often caused by bacteria, including Streptococcus pneumoniae, Haemophilus influenzae, Moraxella catarrhalis , and sometimes Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus pyogenes

    Symptoms of sinusitis include pain, pressure, and tenderness of the areas of the face over the sinuses. You’ll also likely feel stuffed up and have colored snot full of pus. You may generally feel unwell and potentially have a low-grade fever. 

    Treatment with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to relieve pain, decongestants to remove congestion in the sinuses, and moist heat to relieve pressure can usually help clear up the infection.

    But your healthcare provider may prescribe an antibiotic if you’ve had a sinus infection for more than 10 days. Antibiotics prescribed for sinusitis include Augmentin ( amoxicillin-clavulanate ) and cephalosporin .


    Acute bronchitis is a lower respiratory tract infection. The infection irritates the bronchial tubes and causes swelling and excessive mucus that causes a cough that can last for a few weeks. This infection is usually caused by viruses, not bacteria, but can lead to secondary bacterial infections. 

    Usually, treatment with antibacterials doesn’t shorten the course of bronchitis, so they’re not usually advised to be prescribed. There are a few cases in which antibiotics might be useful:

    • The patient is elderly or has a weakened immune system.
    • The cough hasn’t resolved on its own after several weeks.
    • The patient is prone to pneumonia.
    • Bronchitis is caused by pertussis.

    Other Upper Respiratory Tract Infections

    There are a few other reasons you might be prescribed antibiotics for an upper respiratory infection. Strep throat , medically known as streptococcal pharyngitis, is a sore throat caused by infection by streptococcal bacteria. It is usually treated with penicillin .

    Swelling of the epiglottis, the flap of tissue covering the windpipe, is potentially life-threatening, particularly in children ages 2 to 5 years. Called epiglottitis , this condition can impact breathing and is often caused by infection with the bacteria Haemophilus influenzae type b and should be treated with antibiotics, including a cephalosporin.

    If the cold leads to an ear infection , antibiotics may help resolve it if pain relievers and decongestants don’t do the trick. Antibiotic use guidelines for children with ear infections differ based on their age and symptoms.

    Managing Side Effects of Antibiotics

    While there are some cases in which you may be prescribed antibiotics for a common cold, these medications aren't harmless. There are many side effects of antibiotics . Some are common, and others can be severe and potentially deadly.

    • Allergic reactions (skin reactions including hives, but also, more dangerously, anaphylaxis) 
    • Diarrhea
    • Rashes
    • Vaginal itching or yeast infections
    • Nausea and vomiting

    In a dataset from 2013 and 2014, adverse drug reactions caused 4 out of every 1,000 emergency room visits each year. The most common reason for the visit among children was an adverse reaction to antibiotics.

    If you or your child is experiencing side effects from a prescribed antibiotic , make sure to tell your healthcare provider to be certain it’s nothing to worry about. They’ll also let you know if you should continue taking it or stop. 

    If you’re taking antibiotics, here are a few things you can do to help ward off some side effects of antibiotics :

    • Take a probiotic and eat fermented foods like yogurt and kefir.
    • Limit sun exposure.
    • Take your antibiotic as prescribed (especially with food or fluids if indicated).
    • Make sure to store it correctly (especially if it needs to be refrigerated).
    • Ensure your healthcare provider knows about all other drugs and supplements you’re taking.

    A Word From Verywell

    When you’re feeling sick, it’s tempting to ask your healthcare provider for anything that might help you feel better. But in many cases, when it comes to the common cold and flu, unnecessary antibiotics may make you feel worse.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    • Do I need antibiotics for an upper respiratory infection?

      Probably not. Most upper respiratory infections are viral infections, which do not respond to antibiotics and typically go away on their own in a week or so. 

      Call your doctor if your symptoms don’t clear up within 10 days or your breathing is labored. The infection may have spread to your lungs or other parts of the upper respiratory system.

    • When do you need antibiotics for upper respiratory infection?

      Antibiotics are used to treat bacterial infections. While most upper respiratory infections are caused by a virus, you can develop a secondary bacterial infection, like pneumonia, sinusitis, bronchitis, strep throat, or an ear infection. If your doctor suspects a bacterial infection, you will be prescribed antibiotics. 

    • Why are doctors less likely to prescribe antibiotics these days?

      Years ago, doctors would prescribe antibiotics to treat a bad cold or ear infection to be on the safe side. As a result, antibiotics were overprescribed and overused. This has led to the development of antibiotic-resistant infections. 

      In addition, antibiotics have not been found to relieve symptoms or shorten the duration of a cold. 

    Will amoxicillin treat Salmonella?
    It is concluded that ampicillin or amoxicillin therapy provides no benefit to patients with uncomplicated Salmonella gastroenteritis and substantially increases the risk of bacteriologic and symptomatic relapse. more
    Does amoxicillin treat sepsis?
    Penicillin-type antibiotics are also used to treat blood infections (sepsis), meningitis, endocarditis, and other serious infections. Brand names of amoxicillin include Moxatag and Amoxil. more
    Can amoxicillin damage kidneys?
    Amoxicillin (AMX) has been associated with acute kidney injury (AKI). Two distinct mechanisms have been described: acute interstitial nephritis and crystal nephropathy, the latter of which has been the primary focus of anecdotal reports. more
    Can amoxicillin dehydrate you?
    A person may also be dehydrated if they have a fever while they're taking antibiotics. Dry mouth can affect a person's taste sensations, too. Most of the time, these side effects go away when you stop taking amoxicillin. Drinking more water to stay hydrated can help. more
    Can amoxicillin treat brucellosis?
    Twenty-eight cases of acute brucellosis were diagnosed and confirmed by positive blood culture. They were treated with amoxycillin in a daily dosage of two capsules of 375 mg every eight hours. Treatment lasted for one month of which the first 15 days were spent in hospital. more
    What is dirty chest?
    Cigarette smoking-induced airway disease commonly results in an overall increase of non-specific lung markings on chest radiography. This has been described as “dirty chest”. more
    Does amoxicillin affect sleep?
    Common side effects of amoxicillin include diarrhea, dizziness, heartburn, insomnia, nausea, vomiting, itching, confusion, abdominal pain, easy bruising, bleeding, rash, and allergic reactions. more
    Can amoxicillin treat prostatitis?
    After treatment with either amoxicillin-clavulanate or clindamycin hydrochloride for 3 to 6 weeks, all patients had a decrease or total elimination of symptoms, and no anaerobic bacteria were detected in prostatic secretions. more
    Does amoxicillin stop sepsis?
    Penicillin-type antibiotics are also used to treat blood infections (sepsis), meningitis, endocarditis, and other serious infections. Brand names of amoxicillin include Moxatag and Amoxil. more
    Does amoxicillin cause anxiety?
    Amoxicillin is a penicillin-based, broad-spectrum antibiotic (Box). Its potential psychiatric side effects include encephalopathy, irritability, sedation, anxiety, and hallucinations. more


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