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Knowing what antibiotics can and cannot do

With antibiotic-resistant infections on the rise, people across Suffolk and north east Essex are being reminded that antibiotics are a not a cure-all medicine, and that taking them unnecessarily could put your health at risk by encouraging harmful bacteria to become resistant.

The myths about antibiotic use are being debunked during next week’s World Health Organization’s Antibiotic Awareness Week (18-24 November) and European Antibiotics Awareness Day (18 November).

Dr David Egan, a GP in Debenham and prescribing lead for NHS Ipswich and East Suffolk CCG, said: “It is important that we use antibiotics in the right way and that there’s a greater understanding around what antibiotics can and cannot do for us.

“Antibiotics are very powerful medicines that fight certain infections and kill or slow the growth of bacteria.

“When used properly they can save lives, but many people believe they can cure viral conditions such as colds, coughs and sore throats. This is not the case, as antibiotics don’t work on viruses and won’t make you better if you are suffering from a viral infection.

“You should only take antibiotics if they have been prescribed for you , and then it is important to complete the whole course prescribed. If you are feeling unwell please don’t be tempted to pop some antibiotics belonging to a friend or family member or use any old antibiotics you have kept from a previous illness. It won’t help you and may cause your condition to deteriorate.”

Dr Nimalan de Silva,a GP in Colchester and co-opted GP for NHS North East Essex Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “Over the next few months it’s inevitable that many people will find themselves experiencing a cough, cold or sore throat.

“The best course of action is to take paracetamol or ibuprofen, which are effective in lowering temperature and relieving pain. Then it is a good idea to visit your local pharmacy where the pharmacist will be able to give you further advice, and might recommend that you buy a medicine over-the-counter if you need it.

“If you have a winter cough, cold or sore throat please don’t make an appointment with your GP expecting to get a prescription for antibiotics. It’s far better that you speak to your pharmacist to get expert  advice on treating common winter illnesses.You don’t need to make an appointment, and your pharmacist will be happy to speak with you in a private consultation room"

Dr Christopher Browning, a GP in Long Melford and chairman, NHS West Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “Over the years as more and more people have been taking antibiotics, bacteria have become more resistant to antibiotic treatment. If we continue to take antibiotics at the current rate we risk returning to a pre-antibiotic era where a condition such as pneumonia could, literally, be a death sentence.”

Read more about the WHO World Antibiotics Awareness Week HERE

Read more about European Antibiotics Awareness Day HERE
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