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Take care not antibiotics

19 November 2015

We should use antibiotics only when they’re needed to keep them effective against bacterial infection.

Coughs and colds are starting to circulate and many of us may be tempted to visit the GP for antibiotics, but patients are being warned that if they’re not needed they won’t be prescribed. In fact, 44% of all people who visit the GP suffering from a cold or flu want or think they need antibiotics.1

Andy Cooke, Assistant Director of Medicines Optimisation for Bedfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group said: “Antibiotics have saved millions of lives, and GPs across Bedfordshire are committed to prescribing them only when necessary. With antibiotic resistant infections on the increase and cases appearing in Bedfordshire, it is more important than ever to ensure we safeguard the use of these life-saving drugs with good stewardship.

People can recover from self-limiting illnesses such as a sore throat, cold or even flu without needing antibiotics. Health professionals and members of the public are invited to pledge to become an antibiotic guardian at

www.antibioticguardian.com or tweet #Antibiotic Guardian to help protect these medicines for the future.”

Naomi Currie, Antimicrobials Pharmacist at Bedford Hospital explains: “Antibiotics only work on bacterial infections. Bacteria is very smart. It finds ways to become immune to the antibiotics that we take, making them less effective and in some cases stops them working. New antibiotics aren’t being researched and developed so we have to sensibly use the ones that we have.

“Most sore throats, such as tonsillitis are viral infections. So taking antibiotics won’t have an effect. The best thing people can do is visit their pharmacist who can advise on over the counter remedies to ease the symptoms; take plenty of rest and drink lots of fluids.”

Bacteria can become resistant to antibiotics when they’re used often, if they’re not taken as prescribed, or if the course isn’t finished.

Naomi added: “If people don’t finish the course because they feel better for example, then some of the bacteria can still be in the system. It then mutates and develops a resistance to that antibiotic so that it’s not as effective next time.”

If a cold lasts more than three weeks, or you become breathless or have chest pains, see your doctor or dial NHS111.

You should never share your antibiotics with anyone else because you don’t know their medical history.

For more information about staying well this winter visit www.nhs.uk/staywell

The first World Antibiotic Awareness Week takes place 16 to 22 November 2015.


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