Doctors warning over antibiotics

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GPs are using their winter ‘Keep Calm’ campaign to highlight their concerns about the public’s perception that antibiotics are the stock solution to many common winter ailments.

Nine out of 10 GPs in the North East have revealed patients visiting them in their surgery expect to be prescribed antibiotics for winter ailments, when the drugs have little or no effect with coughs and colds.

As part of the regional winter NHS ‘Keep Calm’ campaign, the 12 Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), including the NHS Hartlepool and Stockton-on-Tees CCG, are keen to bust some myths about antibiotics, saying:

•Antibiotics are losing their effectiveness at an increasing rate – bacteria are becoming resistant to antibiotics, which means they no longer work;

•Many patients expect their GP to prescribe them antibiotics, even for cases that will get better naturally or respond better with other treatments;

•Antibiotics do not work for ALL colds, or for most coughs, sore throats or earache. Your body can usually fight these infections on its own;

•Antibiotics can also cause side effects such as rashes, stomach pains and reactions to sunlight;

•Producing green phlegm or snot is not always a sign of a bacterial infection that requires antibiotics to get better;

•Most infections that result in you producing lots of phlegm or snot are viral illnesses and will get better on their own, although you can expect to feel poorly for a few weeks.

Dr Paul Williams, from NHS Hartlepool and Stockton-on-Tees CCG, said: “What we really need is an honest conversation between doctor and patient that asks ‘are these absolutely necessary?’ or can we save them until we really need them.”

“It’s important that we use antibiotics in the right way, at the right dose to ensure they are most effective.

“Bacteria can adapt and find ways to survive the effects of antibiotic, becoming resistant so that the antibiotic no longer works. The more you use an antibiotic, the more bacteria become resistant to it.

“Antibiotics can also have side effects as they upset the natural balance of bacteria potentially resulting in diarrhoea and/or thrush. The use of inappropriate antibiotics may also allow other more harmful bacteria to increase.

“The best way to treat most colds, coughs or sore throats is plenty of fluids and rest. For more advice, talk to your pharmacist or doctor.”