‘Pneumonia could, literally, be a death sentence’ if we continue to over-use antibiotics
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Taking antibiotics unnecessarily can put your health at risk, a Suffolk doctor has warned - as he offered advice on when to use the drugs and when you should opt for something over-the-counter.
Antibiotic-resistance is on the rise, and doctors across Suffolk and north Essex are warning people that the prescription-only medication is not a "cure-all" option.
Doctor David Egan, a GP in Debenham and prescribing lead for the NHS Ipswich and East Suffolk CCG, said it is important that we use antibiotics in the right way.
He said: "There needs to be a greater understanding around what antibiotics can and cannot do for us."
So what are they?
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"Antibiotics are very powerful medicines that fight certain infections and kill or slow the growth of bacteria," said Dr Egan.
"When used properly they can save lives, but many people believe they can cure viral conditions such as colds, coughs and sore throats. This is not the case, as antibiotics don't work on viruses and won't make you better if you are suffering from a viral infection."
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When should you take them?
Antibiotics should only be taken if they have been prescribed by a doctor - and then it is important to complete the whole course prescribed, to ensure you recover.
What are the dangers?
Doctors warn against "popping some antibiotics belonging to a friend or family member", or using any old antibiotics you have kept from a previous illness, as it won't help you and may cause your condition to deteriorate.
Doctor Christopher Browning, a GP in Long Melford, says antibiotic resistance is also an increasing concern.
He explained: "If we continue to take antibiotics at the current rate we risk returning to a pre-antibiotic era where a condition such as pneumonia could, literally, be a death sentence."
So when should you use paracetamol or ibuprofen?
People are being urged to opt for over-the-counter medicines.
Dr Nimalan de Silva, a GP in Colchester, advised: "The best course of action is to take paracetamol or ibuprofen, which are effective in lowering temperature and relieving pain.
"Then it is a good idea to visit your local pharmacy where the pharmacist will be able to give you further advice, and might recommend that you buy a medicine over-the-counter if you need it."