Do you really need those antibiotics?

If we don’t act on the inappropriate use of antibiotics we might face a world without effective treatments to serious and deadly infections, writes Bupa's Dr Kate Haggar.

Antibiotics can be used to help your body in the fight against bacteria, but they aren’t always necessary.

Antibiotic Awareness Week is an annual, global event to raise awareness about the serious health issue of antibiotic resistance.

Antibiotic resistance happens when bacteria change to protect themselves from an antibiotic. This can make bacterial infections much harder, if not impossible to treat. Overuse and misuse of antibiotics is increasing the problem of antibiotic resistance. We are all part of the problem and the solution.

Our body is designed to fight all types of infection, from viral and fungal to bacterial, and generally it is excellent at doing this.

Unfortunately all battles take time, so you may feel unwell for a few days or more, before your body starts to win the war on infection.

Antibiotics are ideally used when your body is struggling to win the war fighting that particular bacteria. This may be because your immune system isn’t strong enough (someone on a prescribed drug like steroids has a less effective immune system), you weren’t vaccinated against that organism.

Antibiotics aren’t free from risk, they can have serious side effects including hearing loss, and allergic reactions that can led to death. In some cases using antibiotics causes more harm than good.

The more antibiotics we use inappropriately (e.g. unnecessarily or not completing a full course) the faster the world will be overcome by bacteria that no longer responds to our medicines. This means organ transplantations, chemotherapy and surgeries such as caesarean sections become much more dangerous.

Dr Kate Haggar, Medical Director, Bupa Health Team
If we don’t’ start to act then we face a world without effective treatments to serious and deadly infections.This is an individual issue as well as a family, community and global problem. Everyone can make a difference.
Dr Kate Haggar, Medical Director, Bupa Health Team

What you can do

Think twice before taking antibiotics:

Ask the question – do I really need antibiotics?

  • Don’t demand antibiotics if your health worker says you don’t need them.
  • Always follow your health worker’s advice when using antibiotics.
  • Don’t share or reuse antibiotics - Only take antibiotics prescribed for you, by your doctor for that illness – each bacterial infection is different, and will respond to different types of antibiotics. This means taking antibiotics designed for a urinary tract infection, for your cough won’t work, and will only increase antibiotic resistance.
  • Be patient. Not all infections are bacterial, and even when they are caused by bacteria this doesn’t mean your body won’t be able to fight it off. More often than not you need time, rest and fluids, not antibiotics.

Prevent the spread of infections:

  • preparing food hygienically,
  • avoiding close contact with sick people,
  • practise safer sex,
  • Wash your hand regularly and cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing - Regular hand washing (using soap and running water) keeps your hands clean and can help stop the spread of all infectious bugs, including antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Get vaccinated – this helps reduce the spread of infection and helps protect those around you who may not have the strongest immune system to fight off infection.

Spread the word, not antibiotic resistance…

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