November 28, 2021

Wirral Globe Health Column: “Keep Antibiotics Effective”

Karen Howell, Executive Director of Wirral Community Health and Care NHS Foundation Trust, writes for the World.

ANTIBIOTICS are one of our most valuable medicines.

They can treat and even prevent infection and are invaluable for those who are particularly vulnerable to infection.

Because they are so valuable, we need to make sure we make them work.

Next week is Global Antibiotic Awareness Week, which raises awareness of global antibiotic resistance.

Antibiotic resistance remains one of the biggest threats we face today, but why is it a problem? Without effective antibiotics, many regular daily treatments and procedures will become increasingly dangerous: fracture repair, basic operations, even chemotherapy all rely on antibiotics. Antibiotics are also essential for treating serious bacterial infections, such as meningitis, pneumonia, and sepsis.

But antibiotics don’t work for everything, so we need to make sure we’re using them in the right way.

Ask your doctor, nurse or pharmacist for advice on whether you need it or not. Taking antibiotics when you don’t need them may mean they won’t work for you in the future, putting you and your family at risk.

According to the World Health Organization, a growing number of infections – such as pneumonia and tuberculosis – are increasingly difficult to treat as the antibiotics used to treat them become less effective.

So the more we can all do to help reduce this risk, the better it will be for all of us.

Our goal is to slow down our resistance to antibiotics by only using them when we really need them.

The Covid-19 pandemic has shown us that managing the spread of infections by all playing a role makes a big difference overall.

Now more than ever, we must continue to work together to prevent serious infections – including Covid-19 – while reducing the inappropriate use of antibiotics. We all have a role to play.

In this Global Antibiotic Awareness Week, let’s all commit to learning how we can help keep antibiotics working.

Our Medication Management Team, working with our Senior Pharmacist and Medication Safety Officer, shares the following tips to help you and your family stay healthy:

Antibiotics do not treat or prevent colds, flu or Covid-19

Remember, antibiotics won’t help you recover if you have a cold, the flu, or COVID-19. Antibiotics are not effective against viruses, only if you have symptoms of severe bacterial infection – a healthcare professional can advise you on this.


Your body can normally fight common infections on its own, and you can self-medicate to treat them without antibiotics by following these tips:

  • Get enough rest until you feel better.
  • Take pain reliever if you need it (be sure to follow directions).
  • Drink plenty of fluids (6 to 8 glasses, or 2 liters) to pass urine regularly that is pale in color.
  • For coughs, try honey and cough medicine.
  • For sore throats, try medicated lozenges and pain relievers.
  • Soothe eye infections with cooled boiled water, using a different piece of cotton for each eye.
  • For an outer ear infection, apply local heat (such as a warm flannel).
  • Visit for personal care tips. If you need urgent care, think about NHS 111 first. NHS 111 will be able to assess you and, if you need to, book a time slot for you at our walk-in centers, our drop-in center. emergency treatment or A&E to make sure you can be seen safely. Visit or call 111.
  • Use only prescribed antibiotics
  • Only take the antibiotics prescribed for you, do not share them with your family or friends. Complete the full course of antibiotics as prescribed for you and save none for a later date. Never demand antibiotics if your health worker tells you that you don’t need them. Always follow the advice of your health care worker when using antibiotics.

Prevention of infections

Preventing infections, especially during the winter, is the first step we can all take to stay safe and healthy.

For more on how to make infection prevention your winter focus, visit or follow @nhsbuzz on Facebook @wchc_nhs on Twitter.

To learn more about antibiotics, visit

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