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Antibiotics and when to use them

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In the weekly Health Matters column, Lincolnshire CCG members look at antibiotic use.

November 18 is European Antibiotics Awareness Day and NHS Lincolnshire CCG is reminding us all that we should use antibiotics only when they’re needed to help keep them effective.

Coughs and colds are circulating 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.

Bacteria can become resistant to antibiotics
Bacteria can become resistant to antibiotics

In fact, 44% of all people who visit the GP suffering from a cold or flu want or think they need antibiotics.

Dr Dave Baker, GP and South West Lincolnshire Locality Lead, NHS Lincolnshire CCG, said: “Antibiotics only work on bacterial infections.

“Bacteria are very smart. They find ways to become immune to the antibiotics that we take, making them less effective and in some cases stops them working.

“The development of new antibiotics has slowed so we must use the ones we have sensibly.

“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 some over the counter remedies to ease the symptoms, and remember to 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 the course isn’t finished.

Dr Baker 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 may then mutate and develop resistance to that antibiotic so that it’s not as effective next time.”

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

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