Antibiotic awareness

8 November 2023

Antibiotic awareness

18th to 24th November is World Antimicrobial Resistance Awareness Week.

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) occurs when bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites change over time and no longer respond to medicines, making infections harder to treat and increasing the risk of disease spread, severe illness and death. As a result of drug resistance, antibiotics and other antimicrobial medicines become ineffective and infections become increasingly difficult or impossible to treat.

World AMR Awareness Week (WAAW) is a global campaign that is celebrated annually to improve awareness and understanding of AMR and encourage best practices among the public, One Health stakeholders and policymakers, who all play a critical role in reducing the further emergence and spread of AMR.

Facts that patients should know about antibiotics:

  • Antibiotics can save lives. When used appropriately, antibiotics work remarkably well and fast. The benefits outweigh potential side effects or the risk of resistance.
  • Antibiotics are not always the answer. Some patients may appear to benefit from antibiotics, when, in fact, their persistent cough/cold would have gone away in about the same amount of time even without antibiotics.
  • Antibiotics do not work on viruses. Antibiotics are not effective against influenza (flu), coronaviruses, or other viruses that cause colds, bronchitis, or runny noses, even if the mucus is thick, yellow, or green.
  • Antibiotics only work against bacteria but not all bacterial infections need to be treated with antibiotics. Some bacterial infections, including many sinus infections and some ear infections, will resolve without antibiotics.
  • Antibiotics will not make you feel better if you have a virus. Respiratory viruses usually go away in a week or two without medication. Talk to a healthcare professional about things you can do to feel better, like drinking plenty of liquids, getting enough sleep, and staying home to rest.
  • If you do need antibiotics, take them exactly as prescribed. Talk to a healthcare professional if you have any questions or if you develop side effects, especially diarrhoea which needs to be treated.
  • Antibiotics are critical tools for treating life-threatening conditions, including sepsis and certain types of pneumonia. This makes it all the more important to use antibiotics appropriately.
  • The human body is full of bacteria, so when you take an antibiotic, the “good” bacteria in your gut may become more resistant to that antibiotic. Some people will not experience consequences from this, but others may develop subsequent resistant infections or pass resistant bugs on to family members. Antibiotic stewardship helps to keep people healthy, prevent drug-resistance, and ensure that life-saving antibiotics will work for future generations.