European Antibiotic Awareness Day – 18 November

Published on: Monday, 17-November-2014

Antibiotics aren’t always the answer! That’s one of the key messages to those suffering from coughs or colds this winter.

European Antibiotic Awareness Day on 18 November is an annual event that aims to raise awareness on how to use antibiotics in a responsible way.

Health professionals in Knowsley are keen to highlight that many coughs, colds and sore throats are caused by viruses, and antibiotics do not work against infections caused by viruses. The body can fight these infections on its own.

While antibiotics are important medicines used to treat infections caused by bacteria, the more we use them, the greater the chance that bacteria will become resistant to antibiotics and they will no longer work.

This has led to the emergence of ‘superbugs’, such as MRSA, which are resistant to antibiotics. It’s estimated that 25,000 people across Europe die from infections due to antibiotic resistance.

Research conducted among Knowsley patients and GPs revealed that people are keen to know why they haven’t been prescribed antibiotics, and receive more information about the full consequences of over-prescribing. They also seek reassurance that any reluctance to prescribe is not a cost saving measure.

Matthew Ashton, Director of Public Health in Knowsley, said “We’re taking the opportunity to remind residents this European Antibiotic Awareness Day that antibiotics aren't always the answer when you’re feeling unwell.

“If you’re suffering with a cough or a cold the best advice is to rest, take paracetamol and drink plenty of fluids. You should feel better in a couple of days, however if not consult your GP. It’s important we use antibiotics in the right way to slow down the development of antibiotic resistance.”

The advice below offers pointers on how we can help ourselves to get the best from antibiotics:

  • Reduce the risk of spreading infections in the first place. Cleanliness is essential and especially important in households with individuals who have chronic illnesses.
  • Pharmacists can help provide advice on over the counter medicines to treat many symptoms.
  • Antibiotics are important medicines and should only be taken – as directed -when prescribed by a health professional.
  • Never save antibiotics for later or share with others. It is important to use the right drug, in the right way, at the right dose, at the right time for the right duration.
  • Return any unused antibiotics to your pharmacist.
  • Antibiotics can have side effects such as diarrhoea and/or thrush as they can upset the natural balance of bacteria. They also cause other side effects such as rashes, stomach pains and reactions to sunlight.
  • Antibiotic resistant bacteria don’t just affect you, they can spread to other people (and animals) in close contact with you and are very difficult to treat.

Public Health England has also launched an Antibiotic Guardian campaign and are asking individuals (the public, healthcare professionals and leaders) to take action by choosing a pledge and becoming an antibiotic guardian. More details are available at www.antibioticguardian.com