Being a Resistance Fighter

On ANZAC Day, it’s important to remember the price our past generations of soldiers and their families paid for our freedom.  While we may not experience the ravages of war in Australia, we still face a bleak future as a result of a war that we fight every day, and on the front line, GP’s and pharmacists who every day, battle with the tide of sniffling masses  pleading, “Can I please have some antibiotics for this cold.”

We all know how it feels.  Your muscles ache, your nose feels like it is flowing like Niagara Falls.  Your throat is on fire.  You lurch between shivering under four blankets to sweating like you were in a sauna.  You would do anything to feel better.

A significant proportion of the population head to the pharmacist or naturopath and try whatever herbal treatment was last recommended by their facebook friends or the pharmacy assistant (which are usually unproven, or have been shown to be no better than placebo, but that’s another blog).  I see the people who feel that their cure lies in the miracle of antibiotics.

Antibiotics don’t seem like a miracle anymore.  But even as recently as the 1950’s, bacterial infections caused severe illness, and deaths were common.  With the discovery and adoption of penicillin, and the subsequent development of the armory of antimicrobials, we now see bacterial infections as trivial.  Antibiotics have become common place and they tend to be used as a panacea.

According to the Australia’s National Prescribing Service, the use of antibiotics in Australia is one of the highest per capita in the developed world.  The NPS says that “overuse and misuse of antibiotics has made it harder and harder to treat many bacterial infections. Antibiotics are losing their power against illness-causing bacteria.”

The NPS have recently launched a campaign to raise awareness of the growing concern of Antibiotic Resistance, which the WHO recently declared as ‘one of the greatest threats to human health today’.

While the ad is a bit pithy, the message is not.  You don’t need antibiotics for coughs and colds, which are usually caused by viruses.

The NPS says:

  • Understand that antibiotics are only effective against bacteria and not viruses — colds, flu and most coughs are caused by viruses and will get better on their own.
  • Treat your flu and cold symptoms and let your immune system fight the virus — antibiotics will not help you get better quickly, and may give you side effects such as diarrhoea and thrush.
  • Don’t ask for antibiotics — instead ask your doctor about the best way to treat your symptoms.
  • If you are prescribed antibiotics ask your doctor about the risks and benefits and always take them exactly as prescribed.
  • Don’t take someone else’s antibiotics.
  • Spread knowledge, not infections — encourage other people to join the fight against antibiotic resistance.

If you aren’t sure if you have an infection caused by a virus or a bacteria then see your GP.  They are the health professionals that are in the best position to examine you and advise the best course of action.  It may mean a script of antibiotics.  But nine times out of ten, all you’ll need will be a medical certificate, and a trip to the supermarket to get some paracetamol or ibuprofen.  If you have a favorite cold remedy, feel free to post a comment.

If you want more information on the NPS campaign to become a resistance fighter, you can get it here: http://www.nps.org.au/bemedicinewise/antibiotic_resistance

If you want to follow the NPS on Facebook, click here: Facebook

See the video: http://youtu.be/H1wwdE5abLk

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