HEALTH AND CARE: Working to save antibiotics for superbugs

Doctors are encouraging people to only think about using antibiotics when its appropriate to do so
Doctors are encouraging people to only think about using antibiotics when its appropriate to do so

With the weather getting colder and winter illnesses starting to circulate, people are being urged to think of over the counter remedies before antibiotics.

This week is World Antibiotic Awareness Week (November 13 to 19) and Friday is European Antibiotic Awareness Day, and in support, the local NHS is advising people against the use of antibiotics for coughs, colds and flu.

There is a general misunderstanding that antibiotics can treat winter conditions.

In fact, research has shown that only ten per cent of sore throats and 20 per cent of acute sinusitis benefit from antibiotic treatment, but the prescription rates are much higher than this.

Antibiotics are important medicines when it comes to treating infections caused by bacteria, but winter conditions, such as cold and flu, are generally caused by viruses and therefore cannot be treated by antibiotics.

The routine usage of antibiotics to treat viral infections has led to certain bacteria becoming resistant to the effects of antibiotics.

This has a knock-on effect when treating life-threatening conditions, such as MRSA which is currently resistant to several antibiotics.

It is estimated that at least 5,000 deaths are caused every year in England because antibiotics no longer work for some infections.

Local doctors are encouraging people to only think about using antibiotics when it’s appropriate to do so, and together we can slow down resistance and make sure these life-saving medicines remain effective when we need them the most.

GPs are often asked to prescribe antibiotics by patients who think that they will help.

The reality is that antibiotics are not always needed so you shouldn’t expect to be prescribed them by your doctor or nurse.

Most coughs and colds get better just as quickly without antibiotics.

If you are experiencing cold or flu symptoms local doctors advise people to drink plenty of fluids, rest and, if you need some pain relief, take some paracetamol.

Your local pharmacy can also advise you on treating particular symptoms.

And if they are prescribed, take antibiotics as directed and never save them for later use or share them with others.

Together we can stay well this winter and also help to reduce the inappropriate use of antibiotics to help us all stay ahead of superbugs and infections.