North East doctors warn of antibiotics danger

Wed 16th November 2016

We need to think differently about antibiotics, or face major risks to our health from antibiotic-resistant bacteria – that’s the message from doctors in the North East this week.

Overuse of antibiotics means that harmful bacteria can adapt and become antibiotic-resistant. This means that in future, there could be no treatment for infections that become resistant to antibiotics.

Friday 18 November is European Antibiotic Awareness Day, a Europe-wide annual event that raises awareness about how to use antibiotics in a responsible way that will help keep them effective for the future.

“Many people see antibiotics as a ‘perfect solution’, and feel that a prescription for antibiotics makes their visit to the doctor ‘worth it’, but the fact is that antibiotics are losing their effectiveness at an increasing rate,” said Dr Graham Syers, a local GP and locality director for NHS Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG).

“Bacteria can adapt and find ways to survive the effects of an antibiotic, and the more we use them, the more bacteria become resistant. That’s a very real risk to everyone’s health in the future, especially as very few new antibiotics are being developed.”

The message will be shared through digital and social media in the North East by Carol and Eric, the first two members of a family of ‘plasticine people’ who were introduced to the North East public for the first time this week through a new NHS winter advertising campaign.

The characters will spend the next five months helping the region’s NHS through the challenges of winter, by encouraging people to make the best use of stretched NHS services – as well as raising issues like antibiotic resistance and self-care.

“Antibiotics aren’t always the answer, and GPs can often feel they are under pressure to prescribe them,” added Dr Syers. “But they don’t work for winter viruses or colds, while most coughs and sore throats will also get better without antibiotics as the body can usually fight these off on its own.

“Antibiotics have a vital role to play, but it’s worth remembering that they can also have side effects as they upset the natural balance of bacteria which can cause diarrhoea, thrush, rashes or stomach pains.”

Antibiotic facts

  • Antibiotics don’t work for winter viruses – and your body can usually fight these off on its own
  • Antibiotics should be taken as prescribed, never saved for later or shared with others
  • Many antibiotics are prescribed and used for mild infections when they don’t need to be. All colds and most coughs, sinusitis, otitis media (earache) and sore throats get better without antibiotics
  • Your local pharmacist can help – they are experts in the use of medicines and are able to diagnose and offer treatment for a range of minor illnesses and ailments immediately
  • Antibiotics are important medicines and should only be taken when prescribed for you by a health professional
  • Antibiotic resistant bacteria don’t just affect you, they can spread to other people (and animals) in close contact with you and are very difficult to treat
  • Look out for the campaign online and on social media including Facebook and Mumsnet, plus information in GP surgeries, pharmacies and newspapers