Use of antibiotics
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 might the GP 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 may also not 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.
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 GP believes your illness is caused by a virus.
- If you are prescribed antibiotics, please make sure you take the complete course in order to get rid of the bacteria completely. If you have tablets left over or ‘save some for next time’, some bacteria may be left to develop resistance.
- 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 last for more than three weeks, you should consider seeing your GP.
- By not using them unnecessarily, antibiotics are 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.
Antibiotics and Children
When do I need to worry?
Having an ill child can be a very scary experience for parents. If you understand more about the illness it can help you to feel more in control.
What is it that you are most worried about?
If you are seeing your GP or nurse, it is important to tell them what it is you are most worried about.
What are you expecting from the consultation?
When you consult with a doctor or nurse, it is a good idea to think about what you are expecting. If you have any ideas about what you would like done, you should tell the doctor or nurse. This will allow them to try and deal with the things that you are expecting.
Download our useful information booklet.
Where can I find more information about antibiotics?
You can find lots more useful information about antibiotics on the NHS UK 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.