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Got a cold or flu? Take good care not antibiotics  

18/11/2012   |  Argyll & Bute; North & West Highland; South & Mid Highland; Raigmore 

Antibiotics are not necessary to treat all infections. That is the big message marking the annual European Antibiotic Awareness Day on Sunday, November 18th.

And the day is being backed by senior clinicians in Highland who are reminding patients and prescribers that the life-saving medicine is under attack from over use.

Antibiotics have been used with great success to treat infections for over 60 years. However, widespread use has resulted in multi-resistant organisms, such as Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).

Most antibiotics are anti-bacterial, which are drugs that kill bacteria, but have no effect on viruses.

National prescribing information shows that GPs in NHS Highland are already conserving this scarce resource and members of the public are now being asked for their help.

Dr Mike Langran, a GP based in Aviemore Medical Practice, said: “People often expect to receive antibiotics when they visit their GP but they're very often not necessary.

“They won’t treat viral infections such as many coughs and colds.  And many milder bacterial infections such as earache and sore throats will get better within a few days with rest, fluids and over the counter remedies such as paracetamol.”

Clare Morrison, Lead Pharmacist for North Highland, said: "High street pharmacists are a great source of information and advice for the public about common infections. They will be able to explain how best to relieve symptoms and help decide on the best course of action."

“If your doctor does prescribe antibiotics, it’s important to take the whole course and to follow your doctor’s specific instructions on how many to take and when to take them.

“Using less than the intended dose or a shorter course is one of the ways bacteria can become resistant to antibiotics.

And it was the same message from Hospital Consultants.

Dr Duncan Scott, Consultant Physician, said: “The more we prescribe antibiotics the more likely it is that resistance will develop. Whereas, the less we use them the more effective they will be when we really need to rely on them.

“Antibiotics have made such a tremendous impact on our health.  They are life-saving medicines and a crucial defence against bacterial infections.

“For serious infections like meningitis or pneumonia antibiotics can be life saving. But they will not help someone with a viral infection such as the common cold.”

NHS 24 is available for advice night and day on 08454 24 24 24. See for useful self help information.


Notes to editors:

•If we give antibiotics to 100 children suffering with an ear infection, 83 would have got better anyway, 17 might have their earache symptoms reduced by a day, but six of the children will suffer from vomiting, diarrhoea or a rash.
•On average, ear infections last for four days, sore throats, tonsillitis and colds last for a week and sinus infections will last over two weeks. These timescales are the same with or without antibiotic treatment.
•To prevent one case of a severe complication of sore throat, such as ‘mastoiditis’ or ‘quinsy’, we need to give antibiotics to around 5,000 people.
•If children have a rash, a sore or stiff neck, or are not drinking fluids or passing urine, then advice should be sought from their local GP practice or NHS 24. The doctor or nurse practitioner can then assess the need for treatment, which may or may not include an antibiotic.
•When antibiotics alter the natural bacteria in the gut, more resistant organisms, such as Clostridium difficile (C. diff), can overgrow and cause diarrhoea.
•Doctors are constantly improving their prescribing to match new evidence and C. diff rates have dropped by 71% across Scotland since 2007. But, with hardly any new antibiotics under development and those that are will not be ready for years, it is important to keep improving the way in which they are prescribed.
•The Scottish Antimicrobial Prescribing Group (SAPG) is a national group set up to improve antibiotic use across Scotland. It aims to make the best use of antimicrobial drugs to treat infections and minimise harm to patients and the wider society. See

Further information

Erin Greig 
Communications Manager 
01463 705771