Antibiotics are medicines used to treat infections caused by bacteria. Bacteria can adapt and ﬁnd ways to survive the effects of an antibiotic. They become 'antibiotic resistant', meaning that the antibiotic no longer works. The more you use antibiotics, the higher the risk that the bacteria normally living on your skin and in your gut, as well as any bacteria causing infection, will become resistant to those antibiotics. We therefore all have a responsibility to only use antibiotics when we need them in order to make sure they keep working in the future.
Sometimes we can use other antibiotics to treat these infections but they may not be as effective and usually have more side effects. Eventually the bacteria will also become resistant to them, and we may not always be able to ﬁnd new antibiotics to replace them. In recent years, fewer new antibiotics have been discovered, and it has been over 30 years since a new class of antibiotics was last introduced.
Antibiotic resistance is a major threat to healthcare as we know it. Antibiotic resistance is already an everyday problem across Wales, as it is across the world. Worldwide, at least 700,000 people die each year due to drug resistance in infections caused by bacteria. If we don’t slow down the spread of antibiotic resistance, by 2050 it is predicted one person will die every three seconds from resistant infections.
What can I do?
Prevention is better than cure, so taking steps to reduce the risk of infection where you can is important. This involves simple actions such as drinking enough water to keep your urine straw coloured to prevent urine (water) infections and accepting vaccination when offered.
We can all carry bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics without knowing it, and share these with the people around us. It’s therefore important to wash your hands thoroughly and regularly to minimise the risk of sharing these resistant bacteria with the people around you, as well as preventing infecting yourself from other sources of infection too.
Antibiotics don’t work against viruses, which cause many common infections. All colds, and most coughs and sore throats are caused by viruses. There are simple steps you can take to manage these infections, which can be found in the leaflets in the section below.
If you are given antibiotics you need to take them exactly as prescribed as inappropriate use helps the bacteria develop resistance. Inappropriate use includes:
Find out more about what you can do to help by becoming an Antibiotic Guardian
Some conditions are self-limiting, that means they will get better without treatment, but you can do things to help with the symptoms to make yourself feel better. These leaflets give advice on self-care and when you may need to seek further advice:
It can be a worrying time when your child is unwell and difficult to know when to seek further advice, this leaflet gives further information and when to seek advice:
The NHS 111 Wales website has lots of useful information about conditions including infections on their encyclopaedia pages which you can access and search here: