As of 2015, antibiotics are only available by prescription from a health care professional, as stated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Antibiotics cannot treat viral infections, such as those associated with the common cold. Physicians can recommend over-the-counter medications that can help relieve symptoms of these infections.
Physicians prescribe antibiotics when patients test positive for a bacterial infection, such as strep throat or whooping cough. Patients must take antibiotics exactly as prescribed to help prevent the increase of antibiotic-resistant infections, according to Mayo Clinic. This includes taking the correct dose, not demanding a prescription when it is not needed and completing the entire treatment course.