Are you doing your bit to fight antibiotic resistance?

Every year, people with coughs, colds and sore throats ask their GPs for antibiotics to treat their symptoms – despite the fact that antibiotics are ineffective against viral infections.

According to Public Health England, research shows that only 10 percent of sore throats and 20 percent of acute sinusitis benefit from antibiotic treatment – but the prescription rates are much higher than this.

The problem is that antibiotics are becoming less effective, mainly because people take them when they don’t need them or they don’t take them exactly as prescribed. The result is that 25,000 people die each year across Europe from antibiotic-resistant infections.

But there’s good news. The latest figures from Public Health England suggest that for the first time, fewer antibiotics are being prescribed by doctors across all healthcare settings, including in the community and in hospitals. In 2015, 2.2 million fewer antibiotic prescription were dispensed in the community compared with 2014 (the equivalent of six percent of all prescriptions).

No room for complacency

“The overall decrease in the number of antibiotics being prescribed is great news,” says Dr Susan Hopkins, healthcare epidemiologist at Public Health England. “But we can’t become complacent; there is still a lot of work to be done.”

Professor Dame Sally Davies, chief medical officer, adds that antimicrobial resistance is the biggest threat to global health, and could half the progress of more than a century of modern medicine.

“Before antibiotics and vaccines, around 40 percent of all deaths were due to infections,” she says. “Now it is just seven percent. We do not want to see this reversed, so we must do all we can to fight drug resistance infections.”

Public Health England’s Antibiotic Guardian campaign is helping to raise awareness of antibiotic resistance as well as change both the public’s and health professionals’ behaviour around antibiotic use. It encourages people to make a pledge to become an Antibiotic Guardian – at the last count, more than 34,000 people had signed up.

Three simple steps

To take part, here’s what you have to do:

  • Don’t ask for antibiotics, treat your cold and flu symptoms with pharmacist advice and over-the-counter medicines.
  • Take antibiotics exactly as prescribed, never save them for later, never share them with others.
  • Spread the word, tell your friends and family about antibiotic resistance.

Find out more and sign up to the campaign at www.antibioticguardian.com.

If you have a virus such as a cold or flu, your local Careway pharmacist can help relieve your symptoms by recommending effective over-the-counter medicines. Find your nearest Careway pharmacy by using our Pharmacy Finder.