Using antibiotics to treat health conditions or illnesses
Antibiotics have different strengths. A doctor can prescribe antibiotics to treat infections such as pneumonia, meningitis or cellulitis.
Many medical treatments depend on having effective antibiotics including:
- cancer chemotherapy
- organ transplant
- intensive care of premature babies
- major surgery
Health conditions or illnesses antibiotics cannot treat
Colds and the flu are viral infections. Antibiotics don’t treat viral infections such as colds or the flu. Taking antibiotics won’t help your symptoms. Ask your GP or a pharmacist about cold and flu remedies.
How antibiotic resistance threatens health
The more you take antibiotics, the more bacteria may become resistant to them.
If antibiotic resistance increases:
- many infectious diseases could become untreatable
- medical and surgical practices such as a hip replacement could become riskier
Reducing antibiotic prescriptions
Only doctors and dentists can prescribe antibiotics. To reduce the amount of antibiotics prescribed:
- practise good hand hygiene to prevent the spread of infection
- speak to your GP or a pharmacist before you ask for an antibiotic
- finish the full course of antibiotics even if you feel better
- don’t save antibiotics to take the next time you’re unwell
- don’t give your antibiotics to anyone who is unwell
- don’t pressure your doctor to prescribe an antibiotic if they say you don’t have a bacterial infection
- become an Antibiotic Guardian
- Hand hygiene
You shouldn’t give your antibiotics to other people. Your antibiotics might not be suitable for treating their illness. Taking the wrong medicine might delay them getting the right treatment and allow bacteria to multiply.
The Antibiotic Guardian website has information about:
- treating cold and flu symptoms
- caring for children when they’re unwell
- hand hygiene
To read more and sign the Antibiotic Guardian pledge, go to:
Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) usually refers to antibiotics. AMR also includes other drugs such as:
To read the UK government’s report on how to reduce unnecessary prescribing and help prevent bloodstream infections, go to:
More useful links