The winter cold and flu season is upon us. Many of you will make an appointment to see your doctor to find out if you need antibiotics to help you clear your symptoms. It’s important to remember that colds and viruses will clear up on their own without the need for any drugs, other than paracetamol to help relieve the symptoms.
When your GP advises that antibiotics are not necessary, it’s important that you take their advice. This is because we are building up a resistance to antibiotics which is the result of taking them too readily.
Antibiotic resistance is becoming one of the world’s major health concerns, and it’s up to you to do your bit to stop it. Take a closer look at some of the challenges of beating antibiotic drug resistance below.
Increase of GPs in casualty departments
Recent news reports have suggested that an increase in GPs in casualty departments has led to an increase in the amount of antibiotics prescribed. While the move has proven beneficial to help reduce waiting times and free up appointments, it is also contributing to a higher number of antibiotic prescriptions being given to patients. GPs at children’s hospital Alder Hey were found to prescribe 26% of children with antibiotics compared to 20% by emergency doctors at the hospital, which could be a cause for concern in future.
Slow progress of antibiotic developments
While the rise in antibiotic prescriptions is a concern, perhaps what is more concerning is the fact that new types of antibiotics are being developed at a slower rate than hoped – making it difficult to combat antibiotic resistance.
The World Health Organisation is concerned that the new drugs being developed are too closely related to existing antibiotic medication, which will slow the progress of combatting antibiotic resistance. There are concerns that it could lead to a global health emergency, as those with weakened immune systems due to are particularly at risk. The slow progress of antibiotic development is a concern, but there is work ongoing to develop new types of antibiotics to help the situation.
What you can do to help
While being prescribed antibiotics can help you feel better following an infection, most common infections and illnesses will clear on their own if you practice good self care. While it may be tempting to rush to your GP after developing a cold, treating yourself at home first could pay off, meaning that when you really need antibiotics they will be as effective as possible.
NHS advice states that Antibiotics should be reserved for emergency situations where it is most needed, such as recovering from a serious illness, surgery or a broken bone. Being reliant on antibiotics for small ailments is a dangerous habit and could mean the medication becomes ineffective if you do go on to develop a more serious condition.
Some key tips for self-care to help reduce your need for antibiotics include:
Get a flu jab
Antibiotics won’t treat flu as it is a virus. They only help symptoms of an infection caused by a virus. Prevention is much better than cure and if you are eligible, get yourself a flu jab to protect yourself from catching a miserable flu virus during the winter months.
Eat a healthy and balanced diet
Poor diet is often blamed for poor health, and it’s easy to see why. A diet lacking in the right nutrients means your body isn’t getting the vitamins and antioxidants it needs to help fight off infection. Eating a diet rich in fruit and vegetables and protein will help give your body what it needs to fight off viruses and infections, while also helping to lower your risk of serious illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
Visit your pharmacist
Your local pharmacist has an expert knowledge of medications and treatments that can help you feel better when you’re unwell. Unless you suspect something serious, head to the pharmacy in the first instance to get their advice and recommendations on ways you can treat yourself at home.
Antibiotics should be reserved for times when you truly need it. If you suspect that you have a serious illness or infection, it’s important that you book an appointment with your GP as soon as possible. If you need help out of hours, you’ll be able to seek advice from our out of hours services by calling 111. This useful article on when to seek antibiotics can help you work out when you should treat yourself at home, and when you should consider getting medical attention.
Antibiotic resistance is a major concern for health experts, but by doing your bit to help through practicing self-care – you’ll be helping yourself and the NHS. Find out more about treating and conditions on the NHS Choices website.