My spanish textbook says that if you have a fever, you should take "jarabe para la tos". It also recommends "antibióticos" as a remedy for "la gripe". The glossary translates these phrases as "cough syrup", "antibiotics", and "flu" respectively.

While a language textbook isn't obligated to contain scientifically accurate advice, this is plain wrong. I talked to my teacher (grew up in the US but spoke only spanish at home), and she said she always took antibiotics for the flu. I also have some Filipino friends that believe antibiotics help the flu.

Are these phrases used to mean both antibiotics and antiviral drugs? Is this a common misconception among spanish and spanish-influenced speakers?

  • 1
    Joke ahead don't take it seriously: I think you are looking for the world "tequila". bit.ly/1au8w0v
    – razpeitia
    Commented Jan 17, 2014 at 3:26
  • 4
    Where you said "el gripe" should be "la gripe" Commented Jan 17, 2014 at 3:53

4 Answers 4


Your book is right. The belief that antibiotics help cure viral infections is a common misunderstanding in many parts of the world, not just Spanish-speaking countries. It has nothing to do with the language.

  • Yeah, most people don't know the difference between antibiotics and antivirals.
    – Flamma
    Commented Jan 19, 2014 at 18:17

The glossary of your book is correct.

la gripe means the flu
antibiotics means antibióticos
jarabe means syrup
jarabe para la tos means cough syrup


antivirales is the translation of antiviral drugs.

That's the language part of the question. (Maybe if you take another book to learn another language you will find the same "scientific inaccuracy", which not being proper of Spanish, would lead to an off-topic discussion here.)


Yes indeed they are specifically used to denote that: cough medicine and antibiotics. No other mean. Just that.

  • could you specify what countries? Commented Jan 17, 2014 at 3:40
  • In whole latin america. Don't know if Spain at all.
    – digitai
    Commented Jan 17, 2014 at 3:41
  • well in Cuba we know the antibiotic could may more harm than good for a flu Commented Jan 17, 2014 at 3:42

Antibiotics are actually contraindicated for a common flu.

The common translation for Syrup is Jarabe

At least in my country Cuba we use Jarabe as regular rule to treat the flu.

A common say in my country is "Toma un poco de miel con ron para ese catarro"

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