Antibiotics won’t fight winter flu, say experts

THE ANNUAL bout of winter flu is on its way and health experts are keen to remind people in East Sussexthat antibiotics are unlikely to cure any cold or flu.

Dr Andrew Foulkes, medical director at NHS Sussex, said: “Every winter most of us can expect to experience some form of cold or flu, but people need to remember that contrary to popular belief antibiotics won’t help fight off these types of viral infections. Instead the best remedy for these illnesses is usually rest, to drink plenty of fluids, and over the counter medicines such as paracetamol.

“Antibiotics are essential in the fight against infections but if people use them inappropriately or over-use them it can reduce their effectiveness over time, and also make it more likely that bacteria will become resistant to treatment, and therefore leave people more vulnerable to infections such as Clostridium difficile.

“It is crucial that patients reduce the numbers of antibiotics being taken.

“I think part of the problem is that people just assume antibiotics will cure them, and they also think that by having a prescription they have a ‘real’ illness. But just because you don’t have a prescription or antibiotics, it doesn’t mean you are not ill enough to rest at home or stay off work.

“If you do catch a cold or the flu this winter you should drink plenty of fluids and ask your pharmacist what is the most appropriate medication to help you recover.”

Julia Dutchman Bailey, Chief Nurse and Director of Quality at NHS Sussex added, “I know that many people view antibiotics as a cure, but the truth is that for common conditions such as colds and flu they are normally no use whatsoever/ We need to reduce the amount of antibiotics taken to ensure that people are not taking medication unnecessarily, and to help in the fight against infections such as Clostridium Difficile. We work closely with local GPs to help them to prescribe in the most effective way possible, but it is also important that patients understand when antibiotics can help them – and when they cannot.”

NHS Sussex is suggesting to people that if they have an existing medical condition or if they are at particular risk from complications of viral infections, then they should seek the advice of their GP. They are advising people in the region to ensure they have their free seasonal flu vaccine, which will help to prevent serious health complications from flu.