Taking antibiotics when you don't need them can encourage harmful bacteria that live inside you to become resistant. That means antibiotics may not work when you need them.
Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR)
AMR occurs when bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites change over time and no longer respond to medicines. This makes infections harder to treat and increases the risk of disease spreading, severe illness and death.
Antimicrobial medicines are used to prevent and treat infections.
Types of antimicrobial medicines include:
Antibiotics are a type of medicine used for treating bacterial infections. They should not be used to treat viruses. Antivirals may be prescribed to treat some viruses, for example shingles or the flu, in certain circumstances.
When antibiotics are needed
Antibiotics are needed for serious bacterial infections including:
- sexual transmitted diseases like gonorrhoea
- meningococcal meningitis
For some people with a urinary tract infection (UTI), impetigo and certain skin infections, it might be possible for you to be treated safely and effectively with antibiotics in your community pharmacy without having to contact your GP.
Antibiotics also decrease the risks of some medical or surgical treatments, including:
- caesarean section (C-section)
- hip replacement
- types of chemotherapy
If AMR continues to develop and medicines are less effective in treating infections, these procedures would then have a higher risk of infection-related complications.
Helping to reduce AMR
Everyone can work together to help reduce the risk of AMR and ensure that antimicrobial medicines continue to be effective in the future. You can help by:
- only using antibiotics when recommended by a healthcare professional
- following the expert advice of your healthcare professional
- completing your full course of medication when these are advised for you as not taking the full course of antibiotics can mean that bacteria get a chance to develop resistance
- never saving antibiotics for the future or to share with friends and family
- disposing of any unused medicines safely at your local pharmacy to protect the environment, never bin or flush