Reducing Antibiotic Use
"Do I really need this treatment?"
Antibiotics are important medicines designed to treat serious infections caused by bacteria (e.g. pneumonia, meningitis, septicaemia/"blood poisoning").
Antibiotics do not have any effect on viral infections (colds and flu, ear infections, sore throats, sinusitis, most coughs).
Antibiotics can cause side effects.
Also, taking antibiotics that you do not need can lead to antibiotic resistance, and as a result antibiotics become less effective against the serious bacterial infections they were intended to treat. Infections caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria can be very difficult to treat and sometimes even life-threatening.
You can help avoid antibiotic resistance by only taking antibiotics when you really need them and they have been recommended to you by a healthcare professional.
Your doctor or nurse will explain the risks & benefits to help you make the right decision. They may sometimes suggest a ‘delayed prescription’ if symptoms don’t improve after a defined time.
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"Are there simpler options?"
- Have plenty of rest.
- Drink enough fluids to avoid feeling thirsty.
- See your local pharmacist to recommend simple medicines like paracetamol to help your symptoms or pain.
"What happens if I do nothing?"
Your immune system will start to clear up most common infections in a few days. You should expect:
- a sore ear to last around 4 days
- a sore throat to last around a week
- a cold to last around 10 days
- sinusitis to last around 2-3 weeks
- a cough to last around 3 weeks
Fever can be a sign that your body is fighting the infection. Seek medical advice if you have a rash, if you develop severe headache or feel confused, if you have difficulty breathing or chest pain, if you cough up blood, or if you are feeling worse rather than better. Seek advice about children sooner rather than later if they are unwell or have uncontrolled fever.