- Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) is a result of bacteria becoming resistant to antibiotics, reducing their effectiveness in treating conditions
- Everyone can play a role in supporting antibiotic effectiveness, says Boots Superintendent Pharmacist
This World Antimicrobial Awareness Week (18–24 November 2022), Boots’ Superintendent Pharmacist is sharing practical information about how patients can support the appropriate use of antibiotics.
Declared as one of the top 10 global health threats by the World Health Organisation, AMR occurs when micro-organisms, such as bacteria, become resistant to medicines used to treat infections that they cause. As a result, infections from these resistant ‘superbugs’ can be more severe and challenging to treat.
Boots Superintendent Pharmacist Claire Nevinson believes that everyone can play a role in supporting antibiotic effectiveness. She said: “There are actions we can all take in reducing the risk of antibiotic resistance. For most of us, that means being aware of what antibiotics are for and taking them correctly. Overuse and inappropriate use of antibiotics contributes to bacteria becoming resistant to them, so it’s really important that we are aware of what they are for and how to take them.”
Here are the most important ways patients can support antibiotic effectiveness:
Understand what antibiotics are for
“Antibiotics are used to treat or prevent some types of bacterial infection. They work by killing bacteria or preventing them from spreading. It’s important to recognise that they do not work for everything. Antibiotics do not work for viral infections such as colds and flu, and most coughs and sore throats. If you are suffering with a virus, like a cold or flu, speak to your local pharmacist about the appropriate treatment options to relieve the symptoms.”
Take antibiotics exactly as prescribed
“Antibiotics are prescribed in certain numbers and doses for a specific and important reasons. Feeling better, or an improvement in symptoms, does not mean that the infection has completely gone. Stopping treatment prematurely could allow the infection to come back. If you have been prescribed antibiotics, the full course should be taken, following the dosage instructions.”
Dispose of unused antibiotics safely
“If you do find yourself with any old or unused antibiotics, these should be taken to your local pharmacy for safe disposal. You should not save unused antibiotics to treat an infection you may have in the future, even if it is the same type of infection.”
Don’t share your medication with others
“People are occasionally tempted to share prescription medications, such as antibiotics, with friends and family. This is not safe. Antibiotics are only prescribed for certain conditions, and some are not suitable for people with certain medical problems, who are taking certain medicines, or women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. If you are suffering with something that requires medication, always speak to a healthcare professional and never take prescription only medicines that have not been prescribed for you."
Prevent becoming unwell with appropriate hygiene measures and vaccinations
“We can help to prevent resistance to medicines by taking steps to reduce the risk of catching bacteria and viruses in the first place. This includes practicing appropriate hygiene measures, such as covering your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing, regularly washing your hands for 20 seconds with soap and water and, if possible, avoiding contact with others if you have a viral infection like flu. You may also consider vaccinations. Some conditions that are often treated with antibiotics – like pneumonia and meningitis – have a specific vaccination available, which can help to prevent the infection. Vaccination against particular viruses, like flu and COVID-19, are also key to helping to prevent the spread of these illnesses.”
As the UK’s biggest pharmacy chain, Boots takes AMR very seriously has taken part in and led a range of initiatives. You can read more about Boots Antimicrobial Stewardship here.