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Local Authority and NHS partners across Coventry and Warwickshire are working together to help tackle the problem of antibiotic resistance – reminding people that we need to save antibiotics for when they are really needed.

Antibiotics are essential to treat bacterial infections, but they do not work on viruses, so antibiotics cannot treat infections such as COVID-19, colds and flu. Taking antibiotics when they may not be needed, encourages harmful bacteria that live inside us to become resistant. That means that antibiotics may not work when we really need them. 

There are some key things that we can all do to keep our antibiotics working:

  • Prevent the spread of winter viruses by: 
  • checking you and your family have had all your immunisations
  • washing your hands regularly with soap and water 
  • catching coughs/sneezes in a tissue (and binning it)
  • Remember, respiratory viruses and stomach viruses, like norovirus, can’t be treated with antibiotics - they usually get better with rest, fluids and over-the-counter remedies. See here for more information, including when and where to seek advice
  • Only take antibiotics when you need them, when advised by your GP. Find out more about when antibiotics are needed here
  • Always take your healthcare professional’s advice on antibiotics
  • Always take the full course of any antibiotics you are prescribed and never share with others.

Councillor Margaret Bell, portfolio holder for Adult Social Care and Health at Warwickshire County Council said: “Common winter viruses are spreading and can make us feel quite unwell, however, they cannot be treated with antibiotics. To help ourselves it’s important that we take steps to prevent the spread, the key behaviours that we have been following to reduce the spread of COVID – hands, face, space, fresh air - are also important to help lower our chances of contracting all winter viruses. 

“To help keep antibiotics working and to continue their effectiveness, it’s important we only take antibiotics when we need them and to follow the advice from the GP. Keep antibiotics for when they are needed.”

Councillor Kamran Caan, portfolio holder for Public Health and Sport at Coventry City Council commented: “It is that time of year where the common cold and other winter viruses are circulating, but it is important to listen to your GPs advice, which can often be that antibiotics are not an appropriate treatment to help you get well again. Instead, we all need to do our bit to stop the spread of viruses and reduce the chance of catching an infection by following the simple advice that we have all done during the COVID-19 pandemic. That is being mindful of hands, face, space, fresh air – which we have all become familiar with over the last 18 months. 

“I encourage our residents to be mindful that antibiotics can build a resistance to bacteria in our bodies if taken too often and outside of advice by your GP. We need to keep antibiotics working effectively in case of serious infection, which not only affects the individual but their family too.”

Dr Sarah Raistrick, Chair of Coventry and Warwickshire ICB added: “It is a common misconception that antibiotics can treat most winter conditions. Many people who visit the GP suffering from a cold or flu-like illness are convinced that they need antibiotics. Most coughs and sneezes are caused by viruses and antibiotics do not work on them at all. 

“Antibiotics when used correctly have revolutionised medicine but we should not expect to have them to treat things that will get better on their own because then we see a rise in resistance (the bacteria not responding to the medicine) and these “super-bugs” can be deadly. 

“Most healthy children will get 10-12 infections (coughs, colds etc) a year and the majority need no antibiotics - it’s part of growing up in the UK. If in doubt ask your GP or local community pharmacist for advice. 

“As a GP I’d love patients to question and hold me to account if I offer an antibiotic, “Dr, do I really need this- think antibiotic resistance”! If yes, then take it, they save lives! If no, then thank you, you have helped us keep antibiotics working for when someone really needs them.”

For more information, and for ways to help the fight against antibiotic resistance, please click here

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