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Get well without antibiotics​

The cold weather brings common illnesses like coughs, colds, tummy bugs and ear infections. They can make us feel rotten and we want to get well as quickly as possible. Many people still believe that antibiotics will make them feel better quicker, but these illnesses are usually caused by viruses, and antibiotics don't work on viruses and you won't get better any quicker.

Antibiotics help ward off infections for example during chemotherapy treatment, caesarean sections and other surgery. They also treat serious bacterial infections, such as pneumonia, meningitis and sepsis. When they are taken for everyday viral infections, such as colds or flu, they do not kill the virus, but they do encourage harmful bacteria to become resistant. That means that antibiotics may not work when you really need them.

To help keep antibiotics working, we encourage patients to always take a doctor or nurse's advice on antibiotics; they will only be prescribed when you really need them. Taking antibiotics when you don't need them puts you and your family at risk of more severe or longer illness.

Next time you have cold, cough or other common winter illness, you can manage the symptoms and help your body to recover by drinking plenty of fluids and resting. You can also ask a pharmacist for advice. However, you should contact a GP if it lasts more than three weeks, if you become breathless, have chest pains or a pre-existing chest complaint.

And remember, if you do receive antibiotics, you should finish the course and never share them with anybody else.

You can find out more about antibiotics on the NHS website.