Antibiotics are undoubtedly one of the great medical advances of the 20th century and have helped save tens of millions of lives. But there is growing evidence that misuse means they are not having the impact they should. Please play your part in helping make sure antibiotics are used effectively and appropriately and remain an effective remedy.
There are many different types of antibiotic, and they work against bacterial infections. It is important to take the right drug at the right dose at the right time for the right duration.
If you visit your GP and they think you need a course of antibiotics they will prescribe the one that’s most appropriate. But it’s important to remember that antibiotics don’t work on all illnesses and they have to be taken properly.
In particular antibiotics do not work against viruses. That means, however many you take, they will not cure a winter cold or flu. For colds, over-the-counter medicines from your local pharmacy can help with the symptoms until you get better.
There is no doubt people have been prescribed antibiotics for viruses inappropriately in the past, and they have got better. The reason is nothing to do with the antibiotics – it’s a coincidence. Colds and flu are known as self-limiting illnesses and get better by themselves.
Another problem is patients who are correctly prescribed antibiotics for bacterial infections and then they start to take their medicine, then feel better, so stop taking them before completing the course. That can lead to the development of resistant bacteria.
Strains of bacteria can change and, over time, become resistant to a specific antibiotic. The chance of this increases if a person does not finish the course of antibiotics as some bacteria may be left to develop resistance. That’s why the NHS and health organisations across the world are trying to reduce the use of antibiotics, especially for self-limiting minor conditions.
So please remember:
- Don’t ask your GP for antibiotics
- If you are prescribed antibiotics, take the whole course as instructed
- Never share your antibiotics or other medicines with others.
The NHS Choices website: www.nhs.uk is a great source of information on illnesses, diseases and treatments.