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18 -24 November, World Antibiotic Awareness Week (WAAW) aims to increase global awareness of antibiotic resistance and to encourage best practices among the general public, health workers and policy makers to avoid the further emergence and spread of antibiotic resistance. 


The future of antibiotics depends on all of us


Antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest threats facing us today. Without effective antibiotics many routine treatments will become increasingly dangerous.


In order to reduce resistance, we need to avoid unnecessary use of antibiotics.


If you’re feeling unwell, antibiotics aren’t always needed. Taking antibiotics when you don’t need them puts you and your family at risk. In fact, it puts everyone at risk.


Antibiotics aren’t needed for:


  • Colds
  • Flu
  • Vomiting
  • Most coughs
  • Most ear infections
  • Most sore throats
  • Most diarrhoea
  • Most cystitis


Antibiotics are needed for:


Serious bacterial infections, including:

  • Sepsis
  • Pneumonia
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Sexually transmitted infections like gonorrhoea
  • Meningococcal meningitis


Always take your doctor, nurse or pharmacist’s advice on antibiotics. If you’re worried, speak to a doctor who will be able to advise you on the best treatment for your symptoms. Remember never share antibiotics or keep for later use. Your pharmacist can safely dispose of any unwanted or out-of-date medicines. For more information on antibiotics visit


You can help to keep antibiotics working. Become an Antibiotic Guardian by choosing a simple pledge about how you’ll make better use of antibiotics.


Antibiotic Guardian pledges:


  • For infections that our bodies are good at fighting off on their own, like coughs, colds, sore throats and flu, I pledge to try treating the symptoms for five days, or talk to my pharmacist about how to treat the symptoms first, rather than going to the GP.
  • It is vital we prevent antibiotics from getting into the environment. I pledge to always take any unused antibiotics to my pharmacy for safe disposal.
  • If the NHS offers me a flu vaccination, I pledge to accept.
  • If I’m prescribed antibiotics, I will take them exactly as prescribed and never share them with others.
  • Washing hands properly (at least 30 seconds), especially before eating, is the single best way to prevent the spread of infections and keep your family healthy.
  • If anyone in my family is prescribed antibiotics, I will ensure they are taken exactly as prescribed and never shared with others.


Families can also visit the ebug website to take one of the antibiotic awareness quizzes together. 


Antibiotics - the facts:


  • Antimicrobials, particularly antibiotics, have saved millions of lives since they were first discovered. Our generation, and that of our parents, has benefited enormously from these important medicines. 
  • However, taking antibiotics encourages harmful bacteria that live inside you to become resistant. That means that antibiotics may not work when you really need them.
  • Up to 50% of all antibiotic use in European hospitals is unnecessary or inappropriate (find out more here.) 
  • It is estimated that Antimicrobial resistance causes 25,000 deaths in Europe each year.
  • The rise and spread of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is creating a new generation of ‘superbugs’ that cannot be treated with existing medicines.
  • Already, AMR infections are estimated to cause 700,000 deaths each year globally. That figure is predicted to rise to 10 million, alongside a cumulative cost of $100 trillion, by 2050 if no action is taken.


The guidance and content above has been taken from several sources, including Antibiotic Guardian, World Health Organisation,,, antibiotic.ecdc, Governmental 5-year national action plan, Public Health England. 

Last Updated: Thursday, 14 November 2019 17:17

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