Taking antibiotics when you don’t need them puts you and your family at risk as it can encourage harmful bacteria that live inside you to become resistant. That means that antibiotics may not work when you really do need them.

No one likes being sick and it is especially upsetting when your child is ill but remember if you’re feeling unwell, antibiotics aren’t always needed and don’t work for everything.

When Antibiotics Are Needed - Antibiotics are only needed for treating certain infections caused by bacteria. We rely on antibiotics to treat serious, life-threatening conditions such as pneumonia and sepsis, the body’s extreme response to an infection. Effective antibiotics are also needed for people who are at high risk for developing infections. Some of those at high risk for infections include patients undergoing surgery, patients with end-stage kidney disease or patients receiving cancer therapy (chemotherapy).

When Antibiotics Are NOT Needed - Antibiotics do not work on viruses, such as those that cause colds, flu, bronchitis, or runny noses, even if the mucus is thick, yellow, or green.

Antibiotics are only needed for treating infections caused by bacteria, but even some bacterial infections get better without antibiotics. Antibiotics aren’t needed for many sinus infections and some ear infections. Antibiotics save lives, and when a patient needs antibiotics, the benefits usually outweigh the risk of side effects and antibiotic resistance. When antibiotics aren’t needed, they won’t help you, and the side effects of taking the antibiotics could still cause harm. Common side effects of antibiotics include a rash, nausea, diarrhoea, and yeast infections. Rarely, more serious side effects may occur.

Antibiotic resistance and 'superbugs' - The overuse of antibiotics in recent years means they're becoming less effective and has led to the emergence of "superbugs". These are strains of bacteria that have developed resistance to many different types of antibiotics, including:

  • MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus)
  • Clostridium difficile (C. diff)
  • the bacteria that cause multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis

These types of infections can be serious and challenging to treat and are becoming an increasing cause of disability and death across the world.

The biggest worry is that new strains of bacteria may emerge that cannot be treated by any existing antibiotics.

We can all do our bit to help, by not taking antibiotics when we do not need them, and by taking them as prescribed by a doctor, ensuring we complete the prescribed course.

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