Karen Howell, chief executive of Wirral Community Health and Care NHS Foundation Trust, writes for the Globe.

ANTIBIOTICS are some of our most precious medicines.

They can treat and even prevent infection and are invaluable for those who are particularly vulnerable to infection.

Because they are so precious, we must ensure we keep them working.

Next week is World Antibiotic Awareness Week, raising awareness of global antibiotic resistance.

Antibiotic resistance remains one of the biggest threats facing us today, but why is this a problem? Without effective antibiotics many regular day-to-day treatments and procedures will become increasingly dangerous: setting broken bones, basic operations, even chemotherapy all rely on antibiotics. Antibiotics are also essential to treat serious bacterial infections, such as meningitis, pneumonia and sepsis.

But antibiotics do not work for everything, so we must ensure we use them in the right way.

Take your doctor, nurse or pharmacist's advice on whether you need them or not – taking antibiotics when you do not need them can mean they will not work for you in the future, putting you and your family at risk.

According to the World Health Organization, a growing number of infections – such as pneumonia and tuberculosis – are becoming harder to treat as the antibiotics used to treat them become less effective.

So, the more we can all do to help reduce this risk, the better for us all.

Our aim is to slow our resistance to antibiotics by only using them when we really need them.

The Covid-19 pandemic has shown us that managing the spread of infections by all playing a part makes a big difference overall.

Now, more than ever we need to continue to work together to prevent serious infections – including Covid-19 – whilst reducing inappropriate antibiotic use. We all have a role to play.

This World Antibiotic Awareness Week let's all make a pledge to learn how we can help to keep antibiotics working.

Our medicines management team, together with our lead pharmacist and Medicines Safety Officer, share the following advice to help you keep you and your families well:

Antibiotics do not treat or prevent colds, flu or Covid-19

Remember, antibiotics will not help you to get better if you have a cold, the flu or COVID-19. Antibiotics are not effective against viruses, only if you have symptoms of a bacterial infection that are severe – a healthcare professional can advise you on this.


Your body can normally fight off common infections on its own and you can self-care to treat them without antibiotics by following this advice:

  • Get plenty of rest until you feel better.
  • Take pain relief if you need to (make sure you follow the instructions).
  • Drink plenty of fluids (6 to 8 drinks, or 2 litres) so that you pass pale-coloured urine regularly.
  • For coughs, try honey and cough medicines.
  • For sore throats, try medicated lozenges and pain relief.
  • Soothe eye infections with cooled boiled water, using a different piece of cotton wool for each eye.
  • For an outer ear infection, apply local heat (such as a warm flannel).
  • Visit www.nhs.uk for advice on self-care. If you need urgent care, then make sure you think NHS 111 first. NHS 111 will be able to assess you and, if you should need it, book you at time slot at either our walk-in centres, urgent treatment centre or A&E to make sure you can be seen safely. Visit 111.nhs.uk or call 111.
  • Only use antibiotics as prescribed
  • Only take antibiotics prescribed to you, do not share them with family or friends. Complete the full course of antibiotics as prescribed for you and do not save any for a later date. Never demand antibiotics if your health worker says you don’t need them. Always follow your health worker’s advice when using antibiotics.

Infection prevention

Preventing infection particularly during the winter is the first step we can all take to keeping safe and well.

To find out more about how to make infection prevention your winter intention, visit wchc.nhs.uk or follow @nhsbuzz on Facebook @wchc_nhs on Twitter.

Find out more about antibiotics at www.antibioticguardian.com