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NHS shares top tips for taking care of common winter illnesses – without using antibiotics

17th November 2017 | By Liz Mattock | Posted in

With winter the season of colds, flu and other winter bugs almost upon us, the NHS across Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland (LLR) is supporting people to get clued up about how to treat common winter illnesses, without asking for antibiotics.

Antibiotics are essential to treat serious bacterial infections, such as meningitis, pneumonia and sepsis, but they are frequently being used where not necessary to treat illnesses, such as coughs, colds and sore throats, that can get better by themselves.

The NHS is sharing advice on how people can treat themselves, on day five of the local Self Care campaign, which runs from 13th to 19th November, to build people’s confidence across LLR in preventing and treating minor illnesses. The campaign brings together a range of resources, including factsheets and videos, all into one place so that people are better able to take control of their own health.

Dr Paul Danaher, GP and prescribing lead for Leicester City CCG, said: “Taking antibiotics encourages harmful bacteria that live inside you to become resistant. If you take antibiotics, when you don’t need them, the next time you get an infection it is more likely that antibiotics will not work, making it harder to treat.

“It is estimated that at least 5,000 deaths are caused every year in England because antibiotics no longer work for some infections. By only using antibiotics when it’s appropriate to do so, we can slow down resistance and make sure these life-saving medicines remain effective when we need them the most.

“Locally, we have been working hard to reduce the number of inappropriate prescriptions for antibiotics, but we also need the public’s help in this. Antibiotics are often inappropriately prescribed when patients expect or demand them from their GP, without really understanding whether they will be effective for their illness. Please trust your GP to make the best decision on how to treat your illness.”

The NHS advises that if you have a cold or flu and you are otherwise healthy, you can look after yourself at home by resting, keeping warm and drinking plenty of water to avoid dehydration. Fever is a sign the body is fighting the infection; you can take paracetamol or anti-inflammatory medicines such as ibuprofen to ease the discomfort and relieve aches. You should rest and stay off work until you’re feeling better.

Paul Danaher explained: “We find that often people underestimate how long symptoms can last,and they go to the doctor because they think they should be feeling better after a couple of days. But no-one should need to see a GP for a cold. Winter bugs can take some time to clear up and, in the majority of cases, antibiotics simply will not help.

“As a guide, a cold can last for two weeks, and a cough can continue for three weeks. It is not unusual to have a sore throat or earache for seven to eight days and sinusitis in adults can last up to three weeks.

“If symptoms get worse after these guide times, you should contact your GP or call NHS 111. It is also important to seek medical advice if you are pregnant, have a long-term condition such as asthma or diabetes or if you are aged over 65. In these cases you should consider seeking medical advice sooner, if you’re starting to feel more unwell.”

This advice and more is all included on the Common Winter Illnesses factsheet, which can be downloaded from the website www.staywell-llr.org.uk where there is also a selection of videos.

National guidance on the use of antibiotics encourages people to take the following steps:

  • First seek pharmacist advice around reducing your symptoms through actions you can take yourself and over the counter medicines
  • Please do not put pressure on your GP to prescribe antibiotics for a common cold, sore throat or viral infection in the winter; allow them to make the decision as to what treatment is best for your condition
  • If you are prescribed antibiotics, take them exactly as described, never save them for later and never share them with others.
  • Spread the word – tell family and friends about antibiotic resistance.
  • Tweet and share #keepantibioticsworking

The LLR Self Care campaign can be followed on Twitter @StayWellLLR and on Facebook (Page: Stay Well Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland)

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