The World Health Organisation (WHO) is launching a new campaign raising awareness of what antimicrobial resistance is and how much of an issue it is in modern medicine.
This comes during World Antimicrobial Awareness Week (18 – 24 November).
Antimicrobial resistance is when bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites change over time, so they no longer respond to medicines, making infections harder to treat.
This can result in easier the spread of disease, severe illness and even death.
The main reason for antimicrobial resistance is the over-use of antibiotics. We are taking them too often and for too many ailments, so bacteria mutate over time and are less affected by medicines.
A recent example of a mutation is the COVID-19 virus and the way it has mutated to create new strains which vaccines are less effective towards.
This issue is really important for the health and wellbeing of everyone, in the UK and worldwide.
Frequently Asked Questions
Norfolk and Waveney Integrated Care Board have collated some Frequently Asked Questions FAQs) about antibiotics, please read and share these widely.
Q: When should I take antibiotics?
A: Antibiotics may be used to treat bacterial infections that:
- Are unlikely to clear up without antibiotics
- Could infect others
- Could take too long to clear without treatment
- Carry a risk of more serious complications
The correct diagnosis and the decision about whether antibiotics are necessary can only be made by a doctor or other trained healthcare professional
Q: What should I do if my doctor advises against antibiotics for a health concern?
A: Many mild bacterial infections get better on their own without using antibiotics. If your doctor advises against taking antibiotics for a health concern, please take this advice. Antibiotic resistance is a big problem – taking antibiotics when you do not need them can mean they will not work for you in the future.
Q: What forms can antibiotics take?
- Tablets, capsules or a liquid that you drink – these can be used to treat most types of mild to moderate infections in the body
- Creams, lotions, sprays and drops – these are often used to treat skin infections and eye or ear infections
- Injections – these can be given as an injection or through a drip directly into the blood or muscle, and are used for more serious infections
Q: Can antibiotics help against the common cold and flu?
A: No. Antibiotics are not the solution for infections caused by viruses such as common colds or flu.
Q: Are there any side effects to taking antibiotics?
A: As with any medicine, antibiotics can cause side effects. Most antibiotics do not cause problems if they’re used properly and serious side effects are rare. Common side effects include:
- Feeling sick
- Being sick
- Bloating and indigestion
Q: What do I do if I forget to take my antibiotics?
A: If you forget to take a dose of your antibiotics, take that dose as soon as you remember and then continue to take your course of antibiotics as normal.
But if it’s almost time for the next dose, skip the missed dose and continue your regular dosing schedule. Do not take a double dose to make up for a missed one.
Q: What do I do if I accidentally take an extra dose?
A: Accidentally taking 1 extra dose of your antibiotic is unlikely to cause you any serious harm but it will increase your chances of side effects like pain in your stomach, diarrhoea, and feeling or being sick.
If you accidentally take more than 1 extra dose of your antibiotic, are worried or you get severe side effects, speak to your GP or call NHS 111 as soon as possible.
Q: What do I do with leftover antibiotics?
A: Do not keep leftover antibiotics or take them after the prescribed period. If you have received more doses than you were prescribed, ask your pharmacist about how to dispose of the remaining medicines.