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Feeling under the weather? Take care not antibiotics

s300 AntibioticGuardian logo greWith the weather getting colder and illnesses circulating, members of the public may be tempted to use antibiotics in place of rest and over the counter remedies. However, NHS Solihull Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) is advising against the use of antibiotics for coughs, colds and flu. This message to Solihull residents supports World Antibiotic Awareness Week which is 14-20 November 2016.

There is a general misconception that antibiotics can treat winter conditions, in fact, research has shown that only 10%* of sore throats and 20% of acute sinusitis benefit from antibiotic treatment but the prescription rates are much higher than this.

Antibiotics are important medicines used to treat infections caused by bacteria. Winter conditions, such as cold and flu, are viruses and therefore cannot be treated by antibiotics.

The best way to treat most colds, coughs or sore throats is to drink plenty of fluids and to rest. There are many over the counter remedies to ease the symptoms i.e. paracetamol and ibuprofen. Your local pharmacist can advise you on the most effective treatment.

If the cold lasts more than three weeks, or you become breathless or have chest pains, see your doctor.

The routine usage of antibiotics to treat viral infections has led to certain bacteria becoming antibiotic resistant. This has a knock on effect when treating life-threatening conditions, such as MRSA which is currently resistant to several antibiotics.

Dr Anand Chitnis, GP and Chair of Solihull NHS Clinical Commissioning Group said:

“Using antibiotics only when it’s appropriate to do so is important to slow down bacterial resistance and make sure these life-saving medicines remain effective when we need them the most.

“We now know that most coughs and colds get better just as quickly without antibiotics. And antibiotics themselves can cause unpleasant side effects. So if you are experiencing cold or flu symptoms drink plenty of fluids, rest and if you need some pain relief take some paracetamol.”

*Data source: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/465963/AntibioticGuardian_3-fold-leaflet_FINAL.pdf