DOCTOR CALLING: By Dr Kevin Hill
People in South Lincolnshire are being urged by local GPs to be antibiotics aware this winter – and understand that they are unlikely to be the remedy for their coughs, colds and sore throats.
Antibiotics are used to treat or prevent some types of bacterial infection, and they work by killing bacteria or preventing them from reproducing and spreading.
They are not effective against viral infections such as the common cold and flu, as well as most coughs and sore throats that circulate at this time of year.
By being antibiotics aware, people can do their bit to help the prevention of ‘antibiotic resistance’, where bacteria adapt and find ways to survive the effects of an antibiotic.
The more we use antibiotics, the greater the chance bacteria will become resistant to them and they can no longer be used to treat infections – so it’s vital antibiotics are used only in the right way, as prescribed by a doctor.
Many people wrongly assume that antibiotics are a cure-all remedy for their winter illness – but in reality they have no effect on colds, flu and the majority of coughs and sore throats.
Antibiotics only work on bacterial infections and bacteria find ways to become immune to the antibiotics that we take, making them less effective and in some cases stopping them from working altogether. The more we use antibiotics, the less effective they become – so it’s essential that we use them sensibly.
We can all do our bit to limit antibiotic resistance, and you can play your part by not expecting your GP to prescribe antibiotics to make your minor winter illness better.
It’s important to remember that antibiotics aren’t necessarily the answer to your problems and in many cases it’s best to let your body fight off infection by itself.
A pharmacist may be able to recommend over-the-counter remedies to ease the symptoms of winter illness, so visit your local pharmacy for advice if you’re feeling under the weather.
When prescribed antibiotics, it’s important to follow your GPs instructions carefully – improper use can help bacteria to develop resistance to antibiotics.
Never skip doses of antibiotics, save some for later or stop taking them before your course is finished, because even if you’re feeling better there may still be bacteria in your system which can mutate and become resistant.
You should never share your antibiotics with anyone else either as you don’t know their medical history.
To find out more about antibiotics go to www.nhs.uk/antibiotics, or visit www.antibioticguardian.com if you would like to join the fight against antibiotic resistance by becoming an Antibiotic Guardian – and make a simple pledge about how you’ll make better use of antibiotics and help save these vital medicines from becoming obsolete.