To mark European Antibiotic Awareness Day (EAAD) on Monday, November 18, Letterkenny University Hospitals is highlighting awareness and knowledge around the correct use of antibiotics.
Winter is the prime season for respiratory infections, colds and flu and so it is important to be able to identify illnesses where antibiotics are not the answer.
Dr Michael Mulhern, Consultant Microbiologist, Letterkenny University Hospital says, “Antibiotics are not effective for the treatment of viruses - they only kill bacteria. Most patients coming to see their GP with symptoms of infection, such as, temperature, coughs, sore throat, ear ache, stuffy noses, sinus symptoms, flu, aches and pains, rashes, vomiting and diarrhoea have viral, not bacterial, infections.
“Antibiotics will do nothing to help the symptoms of viral infections. They will not make you feel better. They will not reduce a fever; they will not relieve a cough; they will not relieve pain. One in 10 patients will have a side effect such as nausea, stomach upset and in some cases serious illness from taking an antibiotic. Your own immune system can fight viruses if you give it chance. Rest, take plenty of fluids and use paracetamol or ibuprofen to treat fever and pain symptoms.
He added that it is still important to get checked by your GP if you are worried especially for very young children, elderly patients and those with chronic medical conditions or whose immune system is suppressed to decide it they have a viral or bacterial infection.
"But remember being advised you do not need an antibiotic on this occasion is a positive outcome of a visit to the doctor,” he said.
· Antibiotics don’t work for colds or flu. If you have a cold or flu, visit www.undertheweather.ie for advice on how to help yourself get better and ask your doctor for advice if you are concerned
· Antibiotics should be taken exactly as prescribed - at the right time for the right duration
· Never share antibiotics or take them without prescription
· If for any reason you have antibiotics that you did not take ask your pharmacy if they can dispose of them safely for you.
Remember to help prevent infections by making sure you and your loved ones get all the recommended immunisations available. Stop infections spreading by coughing or sneezing in to your elbow or a tissue, washing your hands regularly and staying at home from crèche, school or work until you feel better.
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