Antibiotics are essential to treat serious bacterial infections but they are frequently being used to treat illnesses, such as coughs, earache and sore throats that can get better by themselves.
Taking antibiotics encourages harmful bacteria that live inside you to become resistant. That means that antibiotics may not work when you really need them.
As antibiotic resistance increases common procedures such as caesarean sections and hip replacements could become life-threatening without antibiotics to ward off infections. Cancer patients are also much more vulnerable if antibiotics don’t work; both cancer and the treatment (chemotherapy) reduce the ability of the immune system to fight infections and antibiotics are critical to both prevent and treat infections in these patients.
The 2018 Keep Antibiotics Working campaign is urging everyone to remember that taking antibiotics when you don’t need them puts you and your family at risk. It’s important that, when it comes to antibiotics, you always take your doctor, nurse or healthcare professional’s advice.
How to look after yourself and your family
If you or a family member are feeling unwell, have a cold or flu and you haven’t been prescribed antibiotics, you can use self-care to help you feel better.
- Ask your pharmacist to recommend medicines to help with symptoms or pain
- Get plenty of rest
- Make sure you or your child drink enough to avoid feeling thirsty
- Fever is a sign the body is fighting the infection and usually gets better by itself in most cases. You can use paracetamol if you or your child are uncomfortable as a result of a fever
- Make sure to use a tissue for your nose and wash your hands frequently to avoid spreading your infection to family and friends.
- Read the Taking antibiotics when you don’t need them puts you and your family at risk leaflet
- Read our news release Over three million surgical operations and cancer treatments a year in England may become life-threatening without antibiotics
- Watch local GPs, consultants and pharmacists talking about antibiotics awareness here
- Visit the NHS website
- Become an Antibiotic Guardian