26 Feb 2018

With the warning that some infections are becoming more resistant to antibiotic medicines, NHS St Helens Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) wants us to know when we should, and shouldn’t be taking them.

As the weather grows colder and winter closes in, many patients will be developing coughs, colds and flu, with some thinking they need antibiotics to treat their illness. However, in most cases they won’t be the best way of treating symptoms.

Dr Omar Shaikh GP Governing Body member and clinical lead for Medicines Management at the CCG, said: “It is a common misconception that antibiotics are a cure-all, but the reality is, they just won’t work in the case of a cold or the flu.

“There are many different types of antibiotics and they work against bacterial infections, rather than viral infections, such as colds, coughs and flu.”

“In recent years, the over-usage of antibiotics has actually led to the development and spread of bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics.  Where people contract infections caused by these antibiotic-resistant bacteria, they will take much longer to get better and in some cases could become seriously ill.

“Keeping antibiotics effective is everyone’s responsibility and we all need to take care to use them responsibly and keep antibiotics effective for our children and future generations.”

This is a global problem with the World Health Organisation saying that “taking antibiotics when they are not needed accelerates emergence of antibiotic resistance, one of the biggest threats to global health.”

  • Overuse of antibiotics can cause bacteria to become resistant, meaning current treatments will no longer work
  • Not all infections can be treated with antibiotics; antibiotics don’t cure viruses like colds and flu
  • Only take antibiotics prescribed to you, do not share them with family or friends
  • Antibiotics are not always the answer. Do not demand antibiotics if your health care professional says you don’t need them
  • Always seek the advice of a quali­fied health care professional when taking antibiotics

Dr Omar Shaikh added: “If you have been prescribed antibiotics it’s really important that you finish taking the full course, even if you feel better.”

Your local pharmacist can help advise on the best way to manage minor illnesses including the common cold and flu. Pharmacists provide advice, support, treatment and can signpost patients to the most appropriate healthcare provider if necessary.

You can find out more about staying well this winter at www.nhs.uk/staywell