Virus vs. bacteria: What's the difference?

Great podcasts for parents and carers

Wed 9 August 2017

6 mins

One of the first things you learn as a parent is that when day care starts, so does the lurgy roundabout. They normally fall under two categories; bacterial and viral; one you can treat and one you can't.

 Sarah Hunstead of CPR Kids takes us through infections, and what to do when one circulates your family.

First up, Sarah explains that a virus (for example, the common cold) will enter our body and live inside our cells. However, bacteria (like strep throat or urinary tract infections) live outside our cells.

This difference means that, "Viruses cannot be treated with antibiotics but bacterial infections can," Sarah says. So when your GP says that you have a virus and you don’t need antibiotics, you can believe them! 

There’s one other important thing to know; "You can’t tell if you have a viral or bacterial infection," Sarah says. "It's about eliminating other things, watching and waiting." A doctor will take a look at all the symptoms, eliminate illnesses that don’t correspond, and will explain what it most likely would be.

To help aid a diagnosis, look at your child as a whole. Sarah believes a partnership with your GP is so important so that you can look after your child together. Ask what symptoms you should watch for that require you to bring them back.

In the meantime, the most important thing is to keep up fluids and make sure they're drinking enough. If they're sore, give them pain relief. And remember what you want when you’re under the weather. When you're sick, all you want is some extra love, TLC and a good session of Netflix on the couch.

Kids are exactly the same, so give them comfort in that way.

For Sarah's full tips and advice, listen back to the segment above.

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