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Take care not antibiotics

With winter illnesses still doing the rounds, many people may be tempted to ask their GPs for antibiotics in place of rest and over-the-counter remedies. However, general health advice is to avoid the use of antibiotics for common uncomplicated coughs, colds and flu.

Mindy Bassi, Assistant Director of Medicines Management at Nottingham City CCG, said: “There is a general misconception that antibiotics can treat winter health conditions. Antibiotics are important medicines used to treat infections caused by bacteria, but winter conditions such as cold and flu are usually caused by viruses and therefore cannot be treated by antibiotics.”

The best way to treat most colds, coughs and flu is to drink plenty of fluids and to rest. There are many over the counter remedies such as paracetamol and ibuprofen which can help ease the symptoms. Your local pharmacist can advise you on the most effective treatment.

If a cold lasts more than three weeks, or you become breathless or have chest pains, see your doctor.

The routine use of antibiotics to treat viral infections has led to some bacteria becoming resistant to antibiotics. This has a knock-on effect when treating life-threatening infections such as MRSA, which is currently resistant to several antibiotics.

“By only using antibiotics when it’s appropriate to do so, we can slow down resistance and make sure these life-saving medicines remain effective when we need them the most,” said Mindy.

“We now know that most coughs and colds get better just as quickly without antibiotics. So if you are experiencing cold or flu symptoms drink plenty of fluids, rest and if you need some pain relief take some paracetamol.”

If you need health advice, visit your local pharmacy or contact NHS 111 – available free of charge, 24 hours a day, seven days a week (including bank holidays) by dialling 111.

Published: 18 March 2015