Bacteria vs. virus: Which is which?
When you feel sick, you probably care far more about a comfortable bed and a good heat pack than whether it’s a bacterial or viral infection causing your discomfort. That said, there is a difference, and knowing it can help you find the best treatment.
Unsurprisingly, bacteria cause bacterial infections. Bacteria are tiny one-celled organisms that can only be seen with a microscope. Examples of common bacterial infections include urinary tract infections (UTIs), strep throat, whooping cough, and ear infections. Bacterial infections can be treated with antibiotics (although in mild infections, your doctor may suggest you wait it out and let your immune system fight the infection). There are also vaccines available for some bacterial infections.
Viruses cause viral infections, and these are much harder to treat. Viruses are smaller than cells, and are behind the common cold, the flu, the current coronavirus (COVID-19), and even chickenpox and glandular fever. Once you have a virus, there isn’t a ‘cure’ as much as there are ways to manage symptoms, such as pain relief, hot honey and lemon drinks, and plenty of rest. Fortunately, there are vaccines for some viruses.