Making the most of your antibiotics

This World Antibiotics Awareness Week (14 to 20 November) GPs in Waltham Forest are reminding people to only use antibiotics that have been prescribed for them, and that antibiotics will not work for most coughs, colds, and sore throats. 

Antibiotics can be life-saving drugs, but if they are not used properly they may not work to fight the infections that make us ill. 

Unless people use antibiotics correctly it is estimated that they will stop working in the next 30 years, leaving us unable to treat serious infections such as pneumonia and meningitis. 

People who over-use antibiotics can also build up a resistance to them. If those people then become seriously ill and need antibiotic treatment, it may no longer work. 

Dr Ravi Gupta, who is the Prescribing Lead Clinical Director at NHS Waltham Forest Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “There’s no doubt that antibiotics have saved millions of lives. Before penicillin was discovered in 1928, the risk of infection meant even minor operations could be fatal. 

“Antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest threats facing us today. Unless over use of antibiotics is reduced, all bugs will become resistant, which would set medicine back 100 years. 

“We’re working with our GPs to stop unnecessary prescribing, but we also need people to help us by not asking for antibiotics when you don’t need them, and if your GP decides you do need antibiotics, please always make sure you take them as instructed.” 

Some of the ways antibiotics are misused include people taking tablets prescribed for someone else, or not finishing a prescribed course of antibiotics because they feel better. 

Every winter there is a rise in people demanding antibiotics from their GP for viral infections such as colds and flu, but antibiotics do not kill viruses. 

Dr Gupta added: “If you are experiencing cold or flu symptoms, the best thing to do is drink plenty of water, get lots of rest and let your body fight the virus. If you need relief from symptoms such as a sore throat or aches and pains, your local pharmacist can recommend medicines that can help you – with no need for a prescription.”

Visit to become an antibiotic guardian and pledge about how you’ll make better use of antibiotics.