Patients urged to learn about antibiotics to mark European awareness day

Ahead of European Antibiotic Awareness Day, on Friday, November 18, doctors and NHS managers are raising awareness about the risks of taking antibiotics inappropriately and calling on patients to learn about the proper treatment of common winter conditions like coughs, colds and the flu.  

As the weather grows colder and the winter closes in, many patients will be visiting their GPs suffering from coughs, colds and flu, in the hope that they will be given antibiotics to treat their illness.

Dr Alex Gaw, NHS Lancashire North CCG, said:

“It is a common misconception that antibiotics are a cure-all, but the reality is, they just won’t work in the case of a cold or the flu. 
“There are many different types of antibiotics and they work against bacterial infections, not viral infections, such as colds, coughs and flu. Doctors and patients should also consider that antibiotics can have side effects.” 

In fact, getting rest, taking care of yourself, drinking plenty of fluids and using other remedies available from pharmacies for blocked noses, sore throats and coughs are much more likely to be effective.

For patients who do require antibiotics, to reduce the risk of increasing resistance it is important to follow the doctor’s instructions carefully, not to share antibiotics with other people and to complete the full course of treatment as prescribed.

Your local pharmacist can help advise on the best medication for common colds and flu. If your condition is more serious your GP knows best, and will be able to advise if antibiotics are needed or if there are more appropriate medications.

Dr Alex Gaw warned that the incorrect use of antibiotics in recent years had actually led to the development and spread of bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics. 

“Where people contract infections caused by these antibiotic-resistant bacteria, they will take much longer to get better and in some cases could become quite seriously ill,” he said. 

“Keeping antibiotics effective is everyone’s responsibility and we all need to take care to use them responsibly and keep antibiotics effective for our children and future generations.”

Public Health England developed the Antibiotic Guardian resource for both healthcare professionals and members of the public. Further information on antibiotics is available through their website http://antibioticguardian.com/