Do not take antibiotics for colds or flu, pharmacy union warn

Overuse of antibiotics ‘major threat’ to public health, Irish Pharmacy Union say

Antibiotics do not work in treating colds, flus, coughs, sore throats, vomiting bugs, or diarrhoea. Photograph: Yui Mok/PA Wire

Antibiotics do not work in treating colds, flus, coughs, sore throats, vomiting bugs, or diarrhoea. Photograph: Yui Mok/PA Wire

 

Antibiotics should never be used to treat colds or flu, the Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU) has warned.

The continued misuse and overreliance on antibiotics is a major threat to public health, the pharmacy body said. The practice was leading to increasing levels of antibiotic resistant infections in the health service, Daragh Connolly, IPU president said.

Antibiotics are only effective in treating bacterial infections, and do not work in treating colds, flus, coughs, sore throats, vomiting bugs, or diarrhoea.

If the trend of antibiotic overuse was not reversed, the drugs could become useless, effectively returning health services across the world to a pre-antibiotic era, the IPU said.

“We are taking too many antibiotics and this is causing the very concerning rise in antibiotic resistance,” Mr Connolly said.

“If this problem isn’t tackled, the antibiotics used to treat infections today will become ineffective or may stop working altogether in the future,” he cautioned.

Antibiotics

The use of antibiotics in Ireland increased in the first six months of this year, the IPU said, with people taking seven per cent more of the drugs than they were 15 years ago.

In a statement the IPU issued a series of guidelines, which included a call to avoid taking antibiotics for non-bacterial infections. The IPU said when taking antibiotics patients should always finish the course of the prescription, and should never save antibiotics for later use, or to share with someone else.

The pharmacy body issued the warning ahead of European Antibiotics Awareness Day this Sunday. The warning comes as the country enters into the winter flu season.

One common problem was people mistakenly expected to be prescribed antibiotics to deal with viral infections, such as the flu, the IPU president said.

“The flu vaccination, which is available in your local pharmacy, is the best way to reduce your chances of getting seasonal flu and spreading it to others,” Mr Connolly said.