Antibiotics - ask your pharmacist

What are antibiotics?

Antibiotics are important medicines used to treat infections caused by bacteria.

Bacteria can adapt and find ways to survive the effects of an antibiotic. They become ‘antibiotic resistant’, meaning that the antibiotic no longer works. The more often we use an antibiotic, the more likely it is that bacteria will become resistant to it. Some bacteria that cause infections in hospitals, such as MRSA, are resistant to several antibiotics.


Why shouldn't antibiotics be used to treat coughs and colds?

All colds and most coughs and sore throats are caused by viruses. Antibiotics do not work against infections caused by viruses. Viral infections are much more common than bacterial infections.

Instead - ask at the pharmacy for medicines to treat your symptoms and make you feel better

Why can’t other antibiotics be used to treat resistant bacteria?

They can, but they may not be as effective and may have more side effects. Eventually the bacteria will become resistant to them, and we may not always be able to find new antibiotics to replace them. In recent years fewer new antibiotics have been discovered.


How can antibiotic resistance be avoided?

By using antibiotics less often, we can slow down the development of resistance. It’s not possible to stop it completely but slowing it down stops resistance spreading and buys some time to develop new types of antibiotics.


What can I do about antibiotic resistance?

You can  use antibiotics only when it’s appropriate to do so. When they are prescribed, the complete course should be taken in order to get rid of the bacteria completely. If the course isn’t completed some bacteria may be left, and they may develop resistance.


So when will I be prescribed antibiotics?

When it’s appropriate. Your doctor will only prescribe antibiotics when you need them, for example for a kidney infection or pneumonia. Antibiotics may be life-saving for infections such as meningitis. By not using them unnecessarily, they're more likely to work when we do need them.