sick kids

Virus? Bacteria? – What’s The Difference? And Why Does It Matter?

Many parents feel a bit confused when they go to the doctor. Why does he say that it’s viral and so there’s nothing to do? Can’t he just give antibiotics to the suffering kid?

So this post is meant to explain the things in a very simplified way, make a bit of order in all this mess, and – a surprising tip in the end!

I pull my information from medical articles, research, and studies.

So let’s start:

  • A Bacteria is a living creature with one cell without a nucleus.
  • A virus is not a living creature. And it is not a cell either. It is a structure of its own called virus.
  • The difference between living and non-living creature in biology is determined by few criteria. One of the criteria is self-reproduction. Whatever can reproduce on its own, is considered alive. What cannot reproduce on its own is not alive. (Therefore, plants are actually living creatures).
    The virus actually cannot reproduce by itself. It needs our body cells for that. It enters the cell, uses the cell mechanisms to multiply itself. And after it multiplies inside the cell, the virus goes out of the cell and kills it.
  • Antibiotics are completely useless against viruses! Because the virus is not alive, it can not be killed. The anti-viral medications that do exist, do not kill the virus, but only prevent its reproduction.
  • Why are bacteria harmful to us?
    First of all, it is important to note that not all the bacterias are harmful, but I’ll talk about that in the next section. The ones that are harmful to us, are harmful because they feed on our tissues (they basically eat us) and then they shit on us with toxins. 😄

    Virus vs Bacteria
    the typical structure for virus and bacteria

  • Not all the bacterias are harmful!!! We have more bacterial cells in our body than our own body cells! Many of these bacteria are neutral and do no harm or benefit to us. But many others are useful to us and even necessary and crucial to our lives! In our digestive system, there are plenty of bacteria that help digestion and even help our immune system. On the surface of our skin, we have many bacteria that protect the skin from fungi and various infections. Therefore, over-hygiene is unhealthy in the same way as lack of hygiene.
  • As a continuation of the previous sections – antibiotics do not distinguish between bad and good bacteria. It kills them all. So, on the one hand, it helps us kill the invading bacteria. And on the other, it weakens our immune system. And that’s why you should not take antibiotics every time you feel sick, but only when a lab test confirms that there’s a bacterial infection.
  • When a doctor says “it’s viral”, it means it’s a virus – that means there’s no way to kill it. So there is nothing to do. You just need to rest, to drink a lot of fluids (which helps our body and our immune system), and wait till it passes by itself.
    How does the virus pass “by itself”? Our immune system identifies the body cells infected by the virus (as you remember, we said that the virus uses our cells to reproduce). When the white blood cells identify a virus-infected cell, they kill the infected cell, thus eliminating the virus. Usually, it takes 3-5 days for the immune system to identify and kill all the infected cells. There are also antibodies that “study” the proteins of the decomposed virus, and subsequently know how to identify and attack the virus when it appears next time.
  • The vaccines work exactly by this method (the one that is described in the previous section). The vaccines contain dead or weakened viruses or bacteria. This way our body doesn’t get sick, but has the chance to produce the required antibodies to these viruses or bacteria. And next time, when our body is under attack, the antibodies react immediately and kill the invaders.
    If we would not vaccinate, then what happens is that from the point we get the infection until our body reacts, and starts to produce the right antibodies, the virus or the bacteria already managed to reproduce and spread and damage our body badly.
  • Viruses that do not reside in cells, so the immune system does not kill them, remain in our bodies forever. An example of this is the herpes virus, which happens to exist comfortably in our body, and erupts – that is, it begins to reproduce – from time to time.
  •  And now a surprise! 🙂 (At least for me this discovery was a surprise…) Yesterday I discovered that toothpaste helps against herpes on the lips, just like the Zovirax ointment! Not as efficient but very close. Why and how? It turns out that the herpes virus needs a moist environment to reproduce. Both ointment and toothpaste dry the skin and thus prevent herpes from multiplying!


So this is it for now. I hope now things are a little bit clearer for you, and if so I would love if you comment and tell me. 🙂

Anna Riabzev

Hi, My name is Anna. I'd like to apologize in advance, my English is not perfect and full of mistakes, just like my parenting. But I try my best. In both :-) I am a mother of three adorable kids. Orel, is my amazing red-head boy from my first marriage. Gabriel is a blond sweet child, who was born with a rare genetic syndrom (2q37 - to those who would like to google it). And Marina - my beautiful brunette princess. Although in pictures everything looks perfect, it's not. But it's ok! If everything would be perfect it would be boring - right? In this blog I'd like to share with you my parenting experience. The good and the bad. My successes and failures. The things that cause me guilt feelings, and the things I'm proud of. I hope you will enjoy this blog. Will be really glad if you'll leave me comments and tell me what you think. Have a great day! :)

10 thoughts to “Virus? Bacteria? – What’s The Difference? And Why Does It Matter?”

  1. The graphics on this site are really super. I am totally impressed you are sharing such great information and have such a loving voice in your writing. I think parents need more of what you offer, the openness and the friendliness you offer is rare. Thank you for your honesty.

  2. Your article is extremely educational. Not everyone knows the difference between a virus and bacteria, and it is important to understand that for any number of reasons, with self-medicating being one of them.

  3. I left a comment on your website with regard to your having provided some very good education to the many who really don’t understand the difference between bacteria and viruses. This is an important issue due to the many who self-medicate and who fail at curing themselves, thereby running the risk of further harm.

    1. thank you, Tanya!

      Yes, the comments need to be approved by me, and only then they appear.

      Thanks again for your comment 🙂

  4. That is a very interesting and informatI’ve post ! Very worth reading. So the flu is a virus ? Right ?
    Lol, sometimes I will catch a bug, hold it in my hand while I call off of my day job. Try to never lie.
    Really did catch a bug.
    Really can’t come to work today !
    Keep up the great work Anna !
    Hope you don’t get a virus, or catch a bug !

    1. Hey mike! LOL 😀
      It’s a good method you have there! 😀
      I hope you release the bug afterwards though 😉
      Yep, the flu is a virus.
      And I’m glad you enjoyed my article.
      Thank you for your comment! 🙂

  5. Hey Anna,
    That’s a great article, bet when it’s flu or virus season the poor Doctors have this speech recorded and played in the waiting rooms ! We all want it gone right now and don’t want to wait for it to run it’s course.
    Isn’t there also a thing where the antibiotics are doing less good due to being overprescribed for things they won’t help ? Anti biotic resistant infections I think, causing them to need stronger versions.
    Best Bet is to get the proper nutrients to keep your immune system strong and able to fight these things on it’s own . That being a whole other topic about how we don’t/ can’t eat right . Thanks for the great explanation !

    1. Yep. Taking antibiotics, when there’s no need is harmful indeed. Unfortunately, many people don’t understand it.
      Thank you for your comment! 🙂

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