Save yourself a trip to your GP and treat the symptoms with some practical self-help measures and over-the-counter (OTC) medicines (sold without a prescription).
Speak to your pharmacist first for advice on what is best for you. 3 out of 4 people don’t realise that pharmacists train for 5 years so they really can help you to ‘treat yourself better’.
You can visit www.treatyourselfbetter.co.uk for a day-by-day guide to cold and flu symptoms and self-treatment.
Antibiotics have no effect on viral infections such as the common cold because they are only effective at treating bacterial infections. Through misuse and overuse, they are losing their effectiveness at an alarming rate, making antibiotics resistance one of the most significant emerging public health threats today.
Antibiotics have been around since the 1920s. Prior to that, people would often die from bacterial infections, for which there were no effective treatments. Once the power of antibiotic treatments became clear, they were used extensively for decades without realising the consequences of overuse and misuse. This included being used to treat illnesses that patients would have been able to overcome by themselves, or even to treat conditions that cannot be helped with antibiotics. Sir Alexander Fleming, the discoverer of penicillin, had already warned as long ago as 1936 that misuse of penicillin could give rise to resistance.
Antibiotic resistance is caused when bacteria in our bodies begins to fight against antibiotics and can be lethal when we gain an infection. The rise of so-called antibiotic resistant superbugs has had health experts predicting that the problem could become bigger than cancer.
A bacterial population can double in size approximately every 20 minutes, so they can produce large populations in a very short time. According to Darwin’s theory of natural selection and survival of the fittest, bacteria can become resistant to antibiotics in a very short space of time. As a consequence they are able to evade being killed by antibiotics very quickly. Consequently many of the antibiotics we rely upon are ineffective, and people are once again dying due to simple infections.
Overcoming the threat of antibiotic resistance requires cooperation between patients, the general public, healthcare providers, farmers and policy makers around the world. It may feel like a huge task, but there are some very simple ways that each of us can help stop this global problem.
There are lots of simple things we can all do to try to and prevent the spread of antibiotic resistance:
- Wash your hands properly using soap regularly (antibacterial soap is probably no better than general purpose soaps, so don’t let the lack of one put you off!)
- Cover your mouth with a tissue when sneezing or coughing and dispose of the tissue immediately – if you don’t have time, cough into the crook of your elbow (don’t cough into your hand or keep a hanky in your pocket!)
- If your symptoms are mild (e.g. sore throat), give your body time to clear the infection naturally before visiting your GP – for a chest infection, this could be up to three weeks
- Don’t ask your doctor for antibiotics if you have a cold or the flu, or any other viral or fungal infections – and trust them if they say antibiotics will not work for your illness.
- Speak to your pharmacist first for advice on what is best for you. 3 out of 4 people don’t realise that pharmacists train for 5 years so they really can help you to ‘treat yourself better’. Visit www.treatyourselfbetter.co.uk for your day by day guide to cold and flu symptoms and self-treatment.
- Take antibiotics exactly as prescribed by your healthcare provider and keep taking them for as long as they are prescribed for, even if your symptoms clear up sooner
- Never borrow antibiotics or give them away to someone else, even if their symptoms are the same as yours
- Dispose of any old antibiotics properly (e.g. at a pharmacy)
You can find out more about Antibiotic overuse at http://www.antibioticresearch.org.uk