European Antibiotic Awareness Day aims to raise awareness among healthcare staff and the public about how to use antibiotics wisely.

Antibiotics are losing their effectiveness as bacteria develop resistance to them.  This means they may no longer work in the future.  Taking antibiotics unnecessarily or not following the dosage instructions correctly can cause bacteria to become resistant.

We cannot stop resistance but we can slow it down by using antibiotics wisely.  Recent problems with healthcare associated infections (HAI) such as MRSA and Clostridium difficile infection can also be tackled by improved use of antibiotics.

Using antibiotics for self limiting viral infections such as coughs and colds is not necessary, and helps resistance develop.  It may put patients at risk of side effects and does not aid their recovery. People of all ages can develop viral infections but no matter what age you are, the best way to recover from these viral illnesses is rest, take regular paracetamol or ibuprofen to reduce pain and fever, drink plenty of fluids and ask your local pharmacist if you need advice.

Increasing awareness about how to use antibiotics safely and effectively can reduce unnecessary use. This will ensure that when antibiotics are needed they are prescribed and administered correctly. This, in turn, will help tackle resistance.

People in care homes can develop viral infections but also bacterial infections, particularly chest infections and urinary infections. If in doubt as to whether an antibiotic is needed, seek medical advice. Using antibiotics appropriately is particularly important in this population as they are vulnerable to resistant infections and HAI.

In young children ear infection is a common problem particularly during the winter months. Antibiotics are not usually advised because in most cases the infection clears within 2-3 days on its own. When an ear infection first develops it is common for a doctor to advise a 'wait and see' approach for 2-3 days. This means just using painkillers to ease the pain, and to see if the infection clears.

For more information please see the following links:

NES information and training resources on Healthcare Associate Infection

Scottish Antimicrobial Prescribing Group for info on use of antibiotics and links to key sites