It’s getting colder, dark nights are kicking in and it’s the time of the year when illnesses start to kick in. For a long time now, people have thought the answer to a lot of illnesses has been to take a course of antibiotics prescribed by me or one of my colleagues. Over 5 million bottles of antibiotics were prescribed in 2016 across England, with 1 in 3 people in England taking at least one course of antibiotics each year. In the last 12 months, 195,891 prescriptions for antibiotics have been given out in Rotherham, more than anywhere else in Yorkshire, but this needs to change!
The common cold that starts to become a nuisance at this time of year is due to viruses. Flu is also due to a virus. The only way to protect yourself from a virus is by having a vaccination. If you are offered one by your GP you should make sure you have it. Antibiotics do not work against viruses, they only work against bacteria. By using antibiotics to fight a cold you are more likely to end up with an upset stomach, possibly diarrhoea, as well as the cold. The cold will get better without the antibiotics.
Bacteria are very clever things that can adapt and ﬁnd ways to survive the effects of an antibiotic, therefore they are losing their effectiveness at an increasing rate. Taking antibiotics encourages harmful bacteria that live inside us to become resistant. 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 and routine surgery may get more risky.
You’re probably thinking why we’ve used antibiotics for so long, they must be needed for some illnesses? You’re right, they are needed for serious bacterial infections including Sepsis, Pneumonia, Urinary tract infections, Meningococcal meningitis and Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) such as gonorrhoea to name a few.
However, it is widely recognised that resistance to antibiotics is one of the biggest threats to patients' safety. It is driven by overusing antibiotics with some experts predict that that in just 30 years, if we carry on as we are, antibiotic resistance will kill more people worldwide than cancer and diabetes combined. In fact, it is estimated that at least 5,000 deaths are caused every year in England because antibiotics no longer work for some infections - What an alarming thought to reflect on.
To slow down the development of resistance to antibiotics, it is important that we all use them in the right way, especially in Rotherham. You should use the right drug, at the right dose, at the right time, for the right duration. Antibiotics should be taken as prescribed by your local doctor, and never saved for later or shared with others. If you’re worried, speak to your local pharmacist, nurse or doctor who will be able to advise you on the best treatment for your symptoms.
None of us likes being ill and it can be upsetting when your child is sick, but remember that antibiotics aren’t always needed. As we approach Antibiotics Awareness Day on 18th November 2017, let’s all do our bit to protect ourselves, family and friends and keep antibiotics working.