Local doctors are urging residents to understand that antibiotics are neither necessary nor effective for common winter illnesses.

The message comes as NHS Fylde and Wyre Clinical Commissioning Group has launched a new information leaflet to educate patients positively about minor illnesses and appropriate use of antibiotics.

The leaflet will be given to patients who visit their GP surgery with common winter illnesses such as coughs, colds and sore throats. It sets out advice for patients to follow to ease symptoms and when to visit their GP or contact NHS services if the illness persists.

Antibiotics only work against infections that have been caused by bacteria, and as all colds and most coughs and sore throats are caused by viruses antibiotics won’t work. The best treatment is to drink plenty of fluids and to rest.

Resistance to antibiotics is becoming a worrying issue for health professionals not just in Fylde and Wyre but nationally. Over the last 12 months, there have been almost 52,000 prescriptions for antibiotics in Fylde and Wyre.

The number of infections due to antibiotic-resistant bacteria is growing globally and is related to the over-use of antibiotics. Bacteria can adapt and find ways to survive the effects of an antibiotic. They become ‘antibiotic resistant’, so that the antibiotic no longer works. The more often an antibiotic is used, the more likely it is that bacteria will become resistant so when antibiotics are needed in the future they may no longer work.

Dr Tony Naughton, a local GP and clinical chief officer at NHS Fylde and Wyre CCG, said: “Many people ask for antibiotics to treat illnesses such as colds and flu but these are viruses which will not respond to antibiotic treatment. The best way to treat illnesses like these is with plenty rest and drinking lots of fluids. Your local pharmacy can provide advice on remedies to treat your symptoms if you so wish.

“We need to use antibiotics sensibly because, like any medicine, they can cause serious side-effects if used incorrectly and their over-use leads to bacterial resistance which makes them less and less effective when they are really needed.”

Dr Naughton continued: “There are very few new antibiotics in the development pipeline, which is why it is important to use existing antibiotics wisely and make sure these life-saving medicines continue to stay effective for ourselves and future generations.”

Further information can be found on the following website: www.nhs.uk/antibiotics.

Key facts about antibiotics

  • Antibiotics are medicines used to treat infections caused by bacteria.
  • Antibiotics are usually taken by mouth, but can sometimes be given into a vein (intravenous), into a muscle (intramuscular) or applied to the skin (topical)
  • Antibiotics work by killing bacteria and/or preventing their growth.
  • Different types of antibiotics treat different kinds of infection.
  • Antibiotics are commonly prescribed for respiratory infections, but most of these are caused by viruses not bacteria.
  • Most patients are prescribed antibiotics without the doctor knowing the cause of the infection.
  • Colds and most coughs are caused by viruses not bacteria, so antibiotics will not help.
  • If you take antibiotics when you don’t need them, they may lose their ability to kill bacteria.
  • Antibiotic resistance is growing. If the bacteria keep “overpowering” the medicines we have, we may run out of ways to kill these bacteria.
  • Antibiotic-resistant bacteria can cause serious infections and can be spread to others in your family.