The HSE is today, (Monday 18th November 2019), launching a new video on taking antibiotics to mark the annual European Antibiotic Awareness Day (EAAD) #KeepAntibioticsWorking.
The video is one of five new videos aimed at increasing awareness and knowledge around antibiotics, superbugs, hand hygiene and preventing infection if you are a hospital inpatient.
Taking antibiotics you don’t need can make you sick. Like all medicines they can have side effects. This means that it is safer not to use them except when we need them. They can cause skin rash, diarrhoea, thrush or other side effects. If you don’t need an antibiotic you take the risk of side effects for nothing. Antibiotics can also interfere with other medicines such as cholesterol lowering tablets, blood thinning tablets so always check with your doctor or pharmacist. Antibiotics are priceless for serious bacterial infections but antibiotics do not work for colds or flu so doctors prefer not to give you an antibiotic when it can’t help you.
Professor Martin Cormican, Consultant Microbiologist and HSE National Lead for Antibiotic Resistance says, “When properly used antibiotics have been wonder drugs. In the last century they were called ‘magic bullets’. In very sick patients antibiotics like penicillin were like magic. Before we had antibiotics a simple blood infection was often the cause of death. When we prescribe antibiotics we have to use them carefully to get the most benefit for people who need them while protecting people who do not need them from side effects and from antibiotic resistance.”
What can you do?
The HSE, in partnership with general practitioners and pharmacists has a website which gives practical, common sense advice and information on dealing with many common illnesses like colds, flu, earaches, sore throats, tummy bugs and rashes.
www.undertheweather.ie provides sound advice to give us the confidence and skill we need to take care of ourselves and our families without resorting to antibiotics. Antibiotics can cause more harm than good; they should be used only as prescribed and when needed.
· Antibiotics don’t work for colds or flu. If you have a cold or flu
· Antibiotics should be taken exactly as prescribed - at the right time for the right duration
· Never share antibiotics or take them without prescription
· If for any reason you have antibiotics that you did not take ask your pharmacy if they can dispose of them safely for you.
What can health professionals do?
Dr Nuala O’Connor, Irish College of General Practitioners, Lead Advisor on Antibiotic Resistance stressed, “Antibiotics are not effective for the treatment of viruses - they only kill bacteria. Most patients coming to see their GP with symptoms of infection such as temperature, coughs, sore throat, ear ache, stuffy noses, sinus symptoms, flu, aches and pains, rashes, vomiting and diarrhoea have viral, not bacterial, infections.”
“Antibiotics will do nothing to help the symptoms of viral infections. They will not make you feel better. They will not reduce a fever; they will not relieve a cough; they will not relieve pain. 1 in 10 patients will have a side effect such as nausea, stomach upset and in some cases serious illness from taking an antibiotic. Your own immune system can fight viruses if you give it chance. Rest, take plenty of fluids and use paracetamol or ibuprofen to treat fever and pain symptoms. Both general practitioners and patients need to be constantly aware that antibiotics are a valuable resource and should only be used appropriately.”
“However it is still important to get checked by your GP if you are worried especially for very young children, elderly patients and those with chronic medical conditions or whose immune system is suppressed to decide it they have a viral or bacterial infection. But remember being advised you do not need an antibiotic on this occasion is a positive outcome of a visit to the doctor.”
“We have comprehensive guidelines for GPs and dentists on antibiotic use, designed to minimise the development of resistance. I would urge all prescribers to follow the guidelines at www.antibioticprescribing.ie.”
Remember to help prevent infections by making sure you and your loved ones get all the recommended immunisations available. Stop infections spreading by coughing or sneezing in to your elbow or a tissue, washing your hands regularly and staying at home from crèche, school or work until you feel better.