Antibiotic resistance is a “threat we cannot afford to ignore”, Theresa May has said, launching a new government plan to tackle the problem.
The five-year action plan aims to reduce the use of antibiotics in humans by 15% and cut the number of drug-resistant infections by 10%.
A number of measures will be put in place to achieve these targets, including gathering real-time patient data, as well as helping clinicians understand when to use and preserve antibiotics in their treatment.
The pharmaceutical industry will also be expected to take more responsibility for antibiotic resistance and the NHS will explore a new payment model which incentivises them to do so.
The government has also committed to working with vets and farmers to further reduce antibiotic use in animals by 25% between 2016 and 2020, with objectives to be refreshed by 2021.
Public education surrounding antibiotic use is also key. To help the nation wise up, we spoke to GPs about what we should and shouldn’t be taking them for.
What You Should Not Be Taking Antibiotics For
“Antibiotics only treat bacterial infections, and, despite popular belief, should not be used for viral infections such as colds and ear infections,” Dr Clare Morrison, GP at MedXpress, told HuffPost UK.
“This is because colds and many other infections of the upper respiratory tract as well as some ear infections are caused by viruses, not bacteria.”
If you have any of the following ailments, you should not be taking antibiotics:
Fever / high temperature
Some ear infections
Dr Morrison added: “If you are suffering from a viral infection and taking antibiotics, the ‘good’ bacteria in your body (bacteria that are beneficial and not causing disease) would be affected. This leads to resistance or creates an opportunity for harmful bacteria to replace the harmless ones.”
What You Should Be Taking Antibiotics For
Urinary tract infections
Bacterial ear infection
Bacterial chest infections
Cellulitis and infections of the skin
How To Dispose Of Antibiotics
If you’ve got some antibiotics that you haven’t finished stashed in your cupboard at home, the message is simple: get rid of them.
To do so safely, Dr Kenny Livingstone, an NHS GP and founder of on-demand home-visiting service ZoomDoc, recommended taking them to your local pharmacy where they can be disposed of safely.
“Unfortunately a lot of medications end up in bins and then they end up in the soil and rivers and water system,” he explained. “And it’s not just antibiotics. With the pill, for example, you can now detect oestrogen and hormones within the water supply.
“It’s better that all medications including antibiotics are given back to the pharmacy to dispose of safely.”