Antibiotic resistance – what it is and why it matters
When bacteria get better at defending themselves against antibiotics, and our antibiotics don’t work as well, we call this antibiotic resistance. Over time, antibiotics may even stop working at all. This puts lives at risk, because we need antibiotics to help our bodies fight and protect against serious infections caused by bacteria.
How antibiotic resistance develops
How antibiotic resistance develops
- Antibiotics help our bodies to kill the types of bacteria that make us sick.
- Some of the bacteria that make us sick get better at defending themselves against antibiotics, meaning resistant bacteria are harder to kill. This is called antibiotics resistance.
- The resistant bacteria start to multiply, making our antibiotics less and less effective.
What antibiotic resistance means for you, your family and the community
If you or someone in your family develop an antibiotic-resistant infection:
- you may have the infection for longer
- you may be more likely to have complications from the infection
- you could remain infectious for longer and pass your infection to other people
Globally, antibiotic resistance is becoming more common. We can help slow down antibiotic resistance by only using antibiotics when they are needed.
Your family and antibiotics – what you need to know
Antibiotics aren’t always the best treatment for some common infections. It’s a good idea to know when (and when not) to take them. Always follow your doctor, nurse or pharmacist’s advice on using antibiotics.
Antibiotics work on bacteria not viruses
Antibiotics won’t work on the viruses that cause colds, coughs and flu. They only work against bacteria. That’s why it’s important not to take antibiotics when you have a cold or flu virus. Antibiotics work by helping the body’s natural immune system to fight a bacterial infection.
Different antibiotics work against different types of bacteria. Doctors choose the antibiotic based on the type of bacteria that caused the infection.
Minimising the spread of colds and flu
Most cold and flu symptoms usually clear by themselves in 7 to 10 days, but it can sometimes take a few weeks to feel back to your usual self, and you will still be infectious for 7 to 14 days after the start of a cold or flu. There are simple things you and your family can do to stop the spread of colds and flu at home, school or at work. Here are some basic actions that everyone can take.
- Get immunised – don’t forget your annual influenza vaccination.
- Catch coughs and sneezes in the crook of your arm, or with a tissue. Throw the tissue into the bin, and wash your hands afterwards
- Wash your hands often, with soap, for 20 seconds, and dry them well afterwards.
- Clean kitchen and bathroom surfaces regularly.
- Stay home and away from others when you’re sick.
Find out more about preventing the spread of colds and flu (external link)
How you can help fight antibiotic resistance
You can make a big difference to the problem of antibiotic resistance by only using antibiotics when you need them. Antibiotics have no effect on cold and flu viruses and won’t make you feel better faster.
These are some of the things you and your family can do to help:
- Trust your doctor’s advice. They’ll tell you if antibiotics are the right treatment for you.
- Always follow your doctor, nurse or pharmacist’s advice on how to take any antibiotics prescribed to you.
- Do your best to prevent the spread of infections, colds and flu.