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Make the pledge to be an Antibiotic Guardian

There is no doubt that antibiotics have saved millions of lives since they were first prescribed in the 1930s, yet ironically their success could be the very thing that kills us.

Antibiotic resistance is a very real threat, but what does it mean and why should people care? If used correctly antibiotics cure bacterial infections, but they are losing their effectiveness at an increasing rate because bacteria are clever; they have learned to adapt. We use antibiotics to set broken bones, during basic operations and during chemotherapy treatment. These routine operations could be seriously dangerous without antibiotic support so we’re in a situation where their use needs to be carefully regulated.

In support of European Antibiotics Awareness Day on the 18th November, Public Health England has launched a campaign to raise awareness of antibiotic resistance and is encouraging people to become an Antibiotic Guardian. Over 5,000 people have already signed the pledge to date.

Health care professionals, families, friends and carers are all encouraged to sign up and pledge to make a difference. For instance, GPs like me will pledge to offer alternative advice for patients with viral infections and consider post-dated prescriptions for antibiotics in case patients’ symptoms continue or get worse. People will pledge to keep good hand and respiratory hygiene at all times and to let the body’s natural immune system fight viral infections like coughs, colds, sore throats and flu.

Most people don’t realise the risk to their own health if antibiotics are taken unnecessarily. Diarrhoea is just one of the unpleasant side effects but, depending on what other medication the patient may be taking, the concoction could be fatal. Hospital infections such as Clostridium difficile are becoming increasing prevalent too.

As the prescribing lead for North East Lincolnshire Clinical Commissioning Group I take this issue very seriously and I will personally be signing the pledge, along with staff in my practice. Interestingly this week scientists claim to have found an alternative which grows on mushrooms found on horse manure as reported online.  But while research continues we’re a long way off a solution, meaning we still need to act now.

We live in a culture where medication is the norm but we forget that our bodies have an amazing ability to heal themselves and most of us are more than capable of fighting viral infections alone. Medicine should be used appropriately to support illness when necessary. The more unnecessary antibiotics we take the harder it will become to fight infections later on and it goes without saying that leading a healthy lifestyle will support a stronger immune system too.

Find out how you can make a difference in the fight against antibiotic resistance and sign up as an Antibiotic Guardian today at http://antibioticguardian.com/.

Dr Sudhakar Allamsetty

GP at Scartho Medical Practice and Prescribing Lead for North East Lincolnshire Clinical Commissioning Group 

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