Only use antibiotics when necessary, urges health chief

A local health specialist is urging people to reduce inappropriate antibiotic use. Otherwise we risk squandering one of the most important medical advances of the past 100 years, he warns.

Dr Diarmuid O’Donovan, director of public health with the HSE West, says people are using an increasing number of antibiotics each year in this country and are seeing more infections caused by antibiotic resistant bacteria as a result.

His comments come as Ireland joins the European campaign to stop unnecessary use of antibiotics and reduce resistance to this medication. The awareness drive emphasises the importance of only taking antibiotics when they are really needed and encouraging people to follow their doctors’ instructions on how to take them appropriately.

“Since their development over 60 years ago antibiotics have saved millions of lives through the treatment of bacterial infections. Many of the advances in modern medicine, such as cancer chemotherapy, organ transplants and joint replacement surgery, would not be possible without them.

“However, antibiotics have also been misused and are often prescribed unnecessarily for infections such as colds and flu where they have no effect. We are using more and more antibiotics each year in Ireland and are seeing more infections caused by antibiotic resistant bacteria as a result. We must take steps to reduce inappropriate antibiotic use. Otherwise we risk squandering one of the most important medical advances of the past 100 years.”

Professor Martin Cormican, consultant microbiologist at Galway University Hospitals, explains that taking antibiotics when they are not needed may mean that they will not work when necessary for a serious infection.

Recent statistics indicate that overall antibiotic use in Ireland decreased in 2008, the first time since 2000, according to a spokesperson for the HSE West.

“However, we need to ensure that we continue to raise awareness that taking antibiotics for cough, colds and flu including swine flu will not work. Key things to remember are:-

* Most common infections don’t need antibiotics

* Antibiotics are only effective against bacterial infections - they cannot help against common colds, coughs or flu including the swine flu.

* Taking antibiotics when they are not needed puts your health and your family’s health at risk

* If your doctor decides that you need an antibiotic make sure you take it exactly as prescribed

* Misuse of antibiotics only causes bacteria to become resistant to antibiotic treatments. So when antibiotics are needed in the future they may not work.

* Antibiotics often give side effects such as diarrhoea, nausea and skin rashes

* Always seek a doctor’s advice before taking antibiotics.”

 

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