Antibiotics are important medicines to help treat infections that are caused by bacteria. Different antibiotics are used to kill different types of bacteria. They can be used to treat relatively mild conditions such as acne as well as potentially life-threatening conditions such as pneumonia (a type of lung infection). Antibiotics are usually taken by mouth, but can sometimes be given into a vein (intravenous), into a muscle (intramuscular) or applied to the skin (topical).
Why we might not prescribe antibiotics
Our Practice will only prescribe antibiotics if we feel that they will benefit your condition – many conditions will improve without the need for medication. The majority of common ailments such as colds, most coughs and sore throats are caused by viruses. Antibiotics do not work against infections caused by viruses and generally these will get better on their own.
Antibiotic resistance (when an antibiotic is no longer effective) is a major problem. This is caused by overusing and inappropriately prescribing antibiotics. The resistance of bacteria to antibiotics has led to the emergence of superbugs such as meticillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and Clostridium difficile (C. diff) which are often in the headlines.
Some antibiotics are not suitable for people with certain medical conditions, or for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. You should only ever take antibiotics that are prescribed to you – never ‘borrow’ them from a friend of family member. You are also be prescribed certain antibiotics if you are known to have had an allergic reaction in the past. This is estimated to effect about 1 in 15 people in the UK.
The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) and NHS England (NHSE) are running a joint campaign to raise awareness of UTI prevention, symptom recognition and treatment, targeting older adults (65 years +) who are at higher risk of the impacts of urinary tract infections and carers
What can I do to help combat antibiotic resistance
There are a number of things that you can do to help manage antibiotic resistance.
Don’t expect to be prescribed antibiotics when you are unwell, particularly if your illness is viral
Treat viral infections such as colds by drinking plenty of fluids and resting. Seek advice from your pharmacist to help manage your condition. If your cold lasts for more than three weeks or your symptoms get suddenly worse you should see a GP/ANP
If you are prescribed antibiotics take them responsibly – Keep Antibiotics Effective.
By not using them unnecessarily, they’re more likely to work when we do need them. It is important to read the information leaflet that comes with your medication carefully in order to get most benefit and avoid side effects.
Become an Antibiotic Guardian; join over 190,000 individuals who have personally pledged an action to help to tackle Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) by choosing a pledge at the Antibiotic Guardian website
Where can I find more information about antibiotics?
You can find lots more useful information about antibiotics on the NHS Choices website including, what they are used for, side effects and more details about antibiotic resistance. You can also watch a short video about antibiotics. If you would like more information about how to get well without antibiotics your can download or view our leaflet.