Viral infections and bacterial infections are two very different afflictions, although each is commonly mistaken for the other. This is because the symptoms are often the same or very similar. An antiviral and an antibiotic are both medicines designed to ward off illness by attacking what is causing the infection. Bacterial infections and viral infections can be either mild or life-threatening, depending on the type.
Both an antiviral and an antibiotic are designed to help a person ward off illness or disease. They work in similar ways, targeting the cells that are causing the illness. There is some controversy over the overprescribing of these drugs, as introducing either of these into a healthy or unhealthy immune system could present dangerous side effects. In addition, the overuse of an antiviral and an antibiotic could create stronger, more resistant strains of the dangerous organisms.
Bacteria are single-celled microorganisms that are prevalent everywhere and thrive under all sorts of conditions. Millions of bacterium can be present at any one time all over the human body, inside and out, and most are harmless. Antibiotics were introduced in the 1940s and have saved the lives of millions of people. In most cases, antibiotics work to kill off the offending bacteria rather than just suppress the growth. Common bacterial infections include strep throat, respiratory illnesses and urinary tract infections. Rare forms of bacterial infections can be fatal and include bacterial meningitis and botulism.
Viruses are microorganisms that need a host in order to survive. They are dormant outside of the host, and therefore antivirals must be administered after someone has been infected or they are injected into a healthy system in order to create an immune response. Viruses do not reproduce; instead, they take over host cells and then direct those to reproduce. Many viral infections can be treated with antivirals, which are designed to slow the growth of the virus causing the ailment. Common viruses include the flu virus and the cold virus. Rare forms of viruses can be fatal just like rare bacterial infections, and include encephalitis and HIV.
An antiviral and an antibiotic can usually be taken at the same time if a doctor deems it necessary. This would mostly apply to high risk patients, such as pregnant women and the elderly. Common side effects of antivirals and antibiotics include upset stomach and diarrhea, however in most cases, the benefits far outweigh the risks.