Safe Use of Antibiotics

Get well soon without antibiotics

NHS Walsall Antibiotics Awareness ImageWalsall CCG has launched a campaign to raise awareness of the inappropriate use of antibiotics and the importance of using them responsibly.

Did you know? In the UK, it is estimated that 40 million prescriptions are written out for antibiotics every year, however a quarter of them are likely to be inappropriate or unnecessary.

What are antibiotics?  

Antibiotics are important medicines that are used to treat infections caused by bacteria, for example for a kidney infection or pneumonia. They can also be life-saving for infections such as meningitis.

However, patients often request antibiotics for things that they can’t treat - like colds, flu or other viral infections - not only are they of no benefit but they can become less effective over time against bacteria they’re intended to treat.

What does ‘antibiotic resistant’ mean?

In the last few years, we have found that bacteria can adapt and find ways to survive the effects of an antibiotic. They become ‘antibiotic resistant’ which means the antibiotic no longer works.

The more often we use an antibiotic, the more likely it is that bacteria will become resistant to it. By using antibiotics responsibly, we can help prevent antibiotic resistance superbugs such as Clostridium Difficille (Cdiff) and MRSA from spreading.

We need to think about reducing our use of antibiotics and ensuring they are only used when needed to treat bacterial infections and are tailored for the patient.

How should I treat my cold?

All colds and most coughs and sore throats are caused by viruses. Antibiotics do not work against viral infections.

The best way to treat most colds, coughs or sore throats is plenty of fluids and rest. Your local pharmacy can offer advice and recommend over-the-counter remedies such as paracetamol, decongestant sprays or menthol sweets.

If your symptoms persist and you are concerned, see your GP but you shouldn’t expect to be prescribed antibiotics.

What if I am prescribed antibiotics?

Your GP will prescribe you with a course of antibiotics if it is felt that they are needed to help you get well. If you have been prescribed a course of antibiotics it’s important to take the correct dosage and complete the course as directed. If the course isn’t completed, some bacteria may be left to develop resistance. Antibiotics should not be saved for self-treatment or be shared with anyone else.

What do I do if I’ve been diagnosed with Cdiff?

If you have been diagnosed with C. difficile infection you should carry a Cdiff wallet card. You should show your card to your GP, pharmacist, dentist or other healthcare provider every time you visit them, as it will make them aware of your C.diffcile diagnosis and help ensure correct treatment.  If you would like further information on where to access a Cdiff wallet card please speak to your GP.

How can antibiotic resistance be avoided?

By using antibiotics less often we can slow down the development of resistance. It’s not possible to stop it completely, but slowing it down stops resistance spreading and buys some time to develop new types of antibiotics.

More information

Further information can be found here

You can find more answers to your questions here

You can find out more about the national NHS Antibiotic Awareness campaign here