In the week leading up to European Antibiotics Awareness Day (Friday 18 November), pharmacists today warned that antibiotics need to be respected as a precious life-saving medicine to be used sparingly and appropriately and only when absolutely necessary.
The overuse and misuse of antibiotics is detrimental to the future health of all patients and is putting patients at risk, according to the Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU), the representative body for community pharmacists.
IPU President Daragh Connolly commenting on the dangers of the overuse of antibiotics said, “Antibiotic resistance is one of the most significant threats to patient safety in Ireland. Repeated and improper use of antibiotics is the single most important factor leading to antibiotic resistance in Ireland and around the world. If we allow antibiotic resistance to grow, the antibiotics used to treat infections today will become ineffective or will stop working altogether in the future. This will not only cripple our ability to fight routine infections but will also undermine the treatment of more complicated infections, especially in patients with chronic diseases.”
He warned that antibiotics will not work on viruses like colds and flu, and overuse can lead to bacteria becoming resistant to the antibiotic.
“It has been medically proven that antibiotics are only effective for bacterial infections and do not work for the common cold, cough, sore throat or sinus infection, which are caused by viruses. It is important to remember too that flu is an extremely contagious respiratory illness and can lead to serious illness, even death, particularly for elderly patients and those suffering from chronic illnesses or a weakened immune system. The flu vaccination, which is available in your local pharmacy, is the best way to reduce your chances of getting seasonal flu and spreading it to others,” added Mr Connolly.
Mr Connolly also encouraged patients to do their part in reducing unnecessary antibiotic use and offered the following advice:
1. Don’t take antibiotics for colds and flu.
2. If you do need to take an antibiotic, take it exactly as prescribed and finish the full course even if you are feeling better.
3. Do not save antibiotics for later use or share them with others.
4. Don’t expect to be prescribed antibiotics for viral conditions