If you receive an antibiotic for a respiratory infection, it’s probably a placebo because almost all respiratory infections are viruses.
If you receive an antibiotic for a skin infection, there’s a chance you have a bacterial infection that an antibiotic won’t help. A boil or other collection of pus will heal if the pus is drained. If the doctor gives an antibiotic but doesn’t drain the pus, it will also heal. That’s because most infections, boils included, eventually heal.
You’ll get an antibiotic if your doctor diagnoses an ear or sinus infection. It’s a bad idea to ask if this will help because (if he’s honest), he’ll admit that no one knows. In experiment after experiment, when researchers compare patients given and not given antibiotics for ear or sinus infections, the results are never dramatic. Often there’s no difference. Sometimes they help a little. Doctors in some nations don’t treat these with antibiotics.
That’s why urine infections are my favorites. It’s not controversial that antibiotics help. For infections in young women, help comes quickly, usually within a day. These are satisfying encounters for everyone concerned.