Antibiotic awareness – what's the campaign about?
Antibiotics are life-saving drugs which have revolutionised medical care in the last 80 years. They are important medicines which help fight infections that are caused by bacteria.
However, resistance to antibiotics is a growing problem in Europe. As a result of the inappropriate use and prescribing of antibiotics, the bacteria are learning to adapt and find ways to survive the effects of an antibiotic. The more an antibiotic is used, the more bacteria become resistant to it.
In addition, few new antibiotics are being developed. As resistance in bacteria grows and with no new antibiotics available, it will become more difficult to treat infections, and this affects patient care.
Many people believe that antibiotics can cure all common health problems, such as coughs and colds, sore throats and earaches. These are most often viral infections which cannot be treated by antibiotics. Not only will the antibiotics be of no benefit, they will become less effective against the bacteria they're intended to treat.
With this ongoing increase in antibiotic resistance, pharmacists can play a vital role in providing you with the best advice about medicines. Pharmacists are the first port of call for help and advice about how to treat common conditions such as coughs and colds, but also recognise more serious symptoms and know when you need to seek further treatment.
What can I do?
• It's important that we use antibiotics the right way, to slow down resistance and make sure these life-saving medicines remain effective for us and future generations.
• Antibiotics should only be taken when prescribed by a health professional. They should be the correct medicine for your illness taken at the right dose and at the right time as advised.
• You must take your antibiotics for the duration directed by the health professional who prescribed them. If you do not complete the full course of antibiotics, the antibiotic may wipe out some, but not all of the bacteria. The surviving bacteria become more resistant and can be spread to other people.
• You must always take the antibiotics as directed, a lower dose or twice instead of three times daily may not be effective and encourages resistance to develop.
• Many antibiotics are prescribed and used for mild infections when they don’t need to be. Colds and most coughs, sinusitis, earache and sore throats often get better without antibiotics. Don’t expect to have a prescription for antibiotics every time you are unwell.
• Talk to your pharmacist if you are feeling under the weather. They can provide you with help and advice to manage the symptoms of common health problems and can direct you to further treatment if necessary.
Every year, European Antibiotic Awareness Day is held on November 18. It's a Europe-wide public health initiative which encourages responsible use of antibiotics.