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Get well soon without antibiotics

13 November 2012

Now that the cold weather has arrived and more of us are getting coughs, colds and sore throats, health experts in Bedfordshire are reminding people that antibiotics do not work against infections caused by viruses.

The advice comes as the NHS in Bedfordshire launches its annual campaign against the overuse of antibiotics to coincide with European Antibiotic Awareness Day on 18 November.

Antibiotics are important medicines used to treat infections caused by bacteria and not viruses such as the cold. 

Andy Cooke, head of medicines management for Bedfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group, said: "Many people visit their doctor at this time of year with coughs, colds and sore throats and many parents take their children with ear infections.  They often expect antibiotics to be prescribed believing they will cure the infection.  However, these infections are typically caused by viruses or bacteria that will be killed by the body’s own immune system, so antibiotics will not help. This means that we will get better just as quickly without antibiotics.

"If patients use antibiotics when they are not needed, the bacteria causing the illness can build up resistance. This means that those antibiotics will not work to treat illnesses in the future.  By not using them unnecessarily, they are more likely to work when we need them.”

“The best way to treat most colds, coughs or sore throats is to drink plenty of fluids and to rest.  There are many over the counter remedies to ease the symptoms so ask your local pharmacist for advice. If the symptoms persist and you are concerned, you should see your doctor but you shouldn’t expect to be prescribed antibiotics.”

Resistance to antibiotics is an increasingly serious public health problem and one of the most significant threats to patients’ safety in the future.  Research has shown that over use of antibiotics can leave people susceptible to other infections such as MRSA and Clostridium difficile that are harder to treat.  Infections due to antibiotic-resistant bacteria are increasing but development of new antibiotics is not set to keep pace. We therefore have to do everything we can to ensure that available antibiotics are effective. 

Your doctor will only prescribe antibiotics when you need them, for example for a kidney infection or pneumonia. When antibiotics are prescribed, it is important that patients always take them as directed and complete the course to get rid of the bacteria completely and so they can stay effective in the future.

Further information can be found on the NHS Choices website at: www.nhs.uk/antibiotics


Notes to editors

Bedfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (BCCG) is a new organisation, run and led by GPs and other local clinicians, that has been created to take over responsibility for commissioning healthcare from NHS Bedfordshire primary care trust in 2013.  BCCG, which comprises the 55 GP practices in Bedfordshire, will have a budget of more than £400m to plan and buy healthcare services for the 430,000 people who live in Bedfordshire.

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