Rise in demand for antibiotics

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ANTIBIOTICS are not the ‘magic cure’ for flu and most coughs, colds and sore throats, which are caused by viruses, according to health experts at NHS Derbyshire.

The warning has come after GPs and health bosses have reported a rise in the number of patients with colds and flu-like symptoms expecting to be prescribed antibiotics.

Dr Bruce Laurence, acting director of public health for NHS Derbyshire County, said: “Antibiotics are only effective against infections by bacteria – so inappropriate use is simply putting others at risk, as infections can quickly build up resistance to antibiotics the more they come into contact with them.

“Using antibiotics to treat colds and coughs is unnecessary. It’s also a waste of money at a time when we need to ensure that we provide the best care possible for every pound spent. Some people will also get unwanted and even dangerous side effects from antibiotics.

“We urge anyone who has a cold, sore throat or cough over the winter to act responsibly by treating their condition appropriately. Vulnerable patients in at-risk groups, including the over 65s and pregnant women, should ensure they protect themselves against flu by having the jab.

“For patients with normal colds, coughs and sore throats lasting a week or two the best medicines are rest, warmth and having plenty to eat and drink, as these are usually self-limiting illnesses. We also recommend you talk to your pharmacist about medications that can help ease your symptoms or take simple medicines such as paracetamol or ibuprofen. Using simple handwashing techniques and ensuring you ‘catch it, bin it, kill it’ are also key in stopping the spread of germs.”

Last year, 439,220 antibiotics were prescribed to patients across Derbyshire County at a cost of nearly £2m – with studies showing that a large number of antibiotics prescribed for colds, coughs and sore throats are unnecessary.

Free jabs are provided to people most at risk of developing serious complications from the flu, including the over 65s, pregnant women and those with heart disease, breathing problems, diabetes and other long-term illnesses such as asthma and diabetics. Anyone in these groups should contact their local GP.

The winter flu jab is by far the best way to protect against the potentially devastating effects of the virus – which can cause serious complications, including pneumonia. In some cases it can be fatal. Help and information on the flu and its symptoms is freely available from NHS Direct on 0845 4647.

European Antibiotics Awareness Day takes place on Friday, November 18.