On European Antibiotics Awareness Day (18 November) the Public Health Agency (PHA) and Health and Social Care Board are reinforcing the message that antibiotics do not work against viruses such as colds and flu and therefore are of no benefit in treating viral infections. Antibiotics are effective only against bacterial infections. The correct diagnosis and the decision about whether antibiotics are necessary can only be made by a medical doctor.
Remember: Antibiotics won’t work in the case of cold or flu.
- follow your doctor’s advice when taking antibiotics;
- when possible, protect yourself against infection by getting the flu vaccine;
- wash your hands regularly, for instance after sneezing or coughing;
- always use antibiotics under medical prescription, do not use ‘leftovers’;
- ask your pharmacist about how to dispose of leftover medicines.
The PHA and HSCB are working together to encourage the appropriate use of antibiotics and to reduce the risk of antibiotic resistance, which is a growing problem.
When bacteria develop the ability to resist antibiotics it is more difficult to kill them or stop their growth. Resistance can occur in the body naturally, but excessive and inappropriate use of antibiotics accelerates the resistance, reducing the effectiveness of antibiotics in treating bacterial infections in the future.
Dr Lourda Geoghegan, Consultant in Health Protection, PHA, said: “Antibiotic overuse is a serious problem and a threat to everyone’s health. As we are now approaching this year’s cold and flu season, I would like to remind everyone that antibiotics are not effective against viral infections. All too often people think antibiotics cure common colds and flu, but that’s not correct. Instead, rest, fluids, paracetamol and if necessary a decongestant and/or cough bottle, will relieve the symptoms.”
Dr Brenda Bradley, Pharmaceutical Public Health and Governance Lead, HSCB, said: “It is important that patients are provided with information about the best way to deal with common infections, both those that will get better by themselves and those that are likely to need antibiotics. With this in mind, the HSCB has developed an information pack for GPs about antibiotics. The pack also contains posters and leaflets for patients about minor ailments, and the role of antibiotics in treating infections.
“We hope that these will be useful, especially as we approach winter when people are much more likely to suffer from colds and flu. We would like to remind patients that they should be guided by their GP as to whether or not they need an antibiotic, as many minor illnesses will get better without one.”
Contact the PHA Press Office on 028 9031 1611.