Responsible use of antibiotics is the theme behind European Antibiotics Awareness Day (18 November 2015). We all know that antibiotics have revolutionised the way we treat infections but many bacteria are developing resistance to antibiotics making treatment of infections more difficult and antibiotics less effective.
NHSEngland’s Chief Medical Officer, Professor Dame Sally Davies has said:
“Antimicrobial resistance poses a catastrophic threat. If we don’t act now, any one of us could go into hospital in 20 years for minor surgery and die because of an ordinary infection that can’t be treated by antibiotics. And routine operations like hip replacements or organ transplants could be deadly because of the risk of infection.”
Antibiotics will not treat viruses that can cause common colds, sore throats and, coughs. They simply don’t work. In most otherwise healthy people your immune system will help you recover and you don’t need to visit your GP.
Most sore throats will start to get better on their own within 3 days and coughs within 3 weeks, on average. Only contact your GP if your symptoms are not improving after this time, or if you are elderly or have other medical conditions such as diabetes or heart conditions.
There are many ways you can get help without seeing your GP. You can talk to your pharmacist about taking an over-the-counter remedy and pain relief or you can contact NHS 111 if you want more advice or to check you’re doing the right thing. The important things are to rest, drink plenty and washing your hands regularly with soap and water help to reduce the spread of infection. If you are prescribed antibiotics, make sure you finish the course. Don’t stop taking them when you start to feel better because the antibiotics may have killed only some of the bacteria and you may become unwell again. Also, never share or save them. They’ve been prescribed for you only and your GP has prescribed the right antibiotic for your illness and the length of time you need to take them for. Remember it is very important that you finish the course.
Dr Darin Seiger, Chair at NHS Nene Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “We’re asking people with colds, coughs and sore throats to visit their pharmacist first, a trained pharmacist will be able to advise on whether you need to contact your GP practice.
“There is a small risk that antibiotics may actually make you worse by causing rashes and stomach upsets. Frequent use of antibiotics builds up resistance and so makes it harder for us to really fight the nasty type of infections. We are asking our patients to help us by using their local pharmacy or NHS 111 and not always expecting a prescription for antibiotics if they visit their GP or Practice Nurse".