Public Health England has launched a campaign (October 2017) to warn people that taking antibiotics when they’re not really needed can prolong infection or make them more serious.
While antibiotics are essential for infections like meningitis, pneumonia and sepsis, they are not generally needed in treating colds, sore throats or ear infections, which will usually get better on their own.
What the experts say
Paul Cosford, Medical Director at Public Health England, comments:
“Antibiotic resistance is not a distant threat, but is in fact one of the most dangerous global crises facing the modern world today.
“Taking antibiotics when you don’t need them puts you and your family at risk of developing infections which in turn cannot be easily treated with antibiotics.
“Without urgent action from all of us, common infections, minor injuries and routine operations will become much riskier.
“PHE’s ‘Keep Antibiotics Working’ campaign helps to explain the risks of antibiotic resistance to the public. It is important for people to understand that if they are feeling under the weather and see their GP or a nurse, antibiotics may not be prescribed if they are not effective for their condition, but they should expect to have a full discussion about how to manage their symptoms.”
‘You shouldn’t expect to be prescribed them by your doctor or nurse’
Dr Chris Van Tulleken, infections diseases doctor at University College London Hospitals, adds:
“As an infectious diseases doctor, I see first-hand what happens if antibiotics don’t work – and it’s scary. Antibiotics are not just vital for treating serious bacterial infections, they’re needed to help with other treatments like chemotherapy.
“Antibiotic resistance is a problem that will affect every one of us, so we all have a role to play. As GPs we are often asked to prescribe antibiotics by patients who think that they will cure all their ills.
“The reality is that antibiotics are not always needed so you shouldn’t expect to be prescribed them by your doctor or nurse.
“Always take their advice and remember that your pharmacist can recommend medicines to help with your symptoms or pain.”
‘Many infections are caused by viruses – which antibiotics won’t cure’
And Dr Rob Hicks says this: “Antibiotics are important in the fight against bacterial infection. However, many common infections – earache, sore throats, coughs and colds – are caused by viruses, which antibiotics can’t cure.
“It’s important to remember that if a doctor says that antibiotics aren’t needed, she’s not trying to be difficult or save cash, she genuinely believes they won’t help.”