Antibiotic overuse kills thousands each year: Authorities urge people to just stay home and rest when ill

Whenever we come down with a cough or a sore throat, we often take some antibiotics so we don’t have to skip a day of work. But did you know that antibiotic overuse causes an estimated 5,000 deaths yearly?

According to the Daily Mail, National Health Service (NHS) patients are advised to refrain from asking their General Practitioner (GP) for antibiotics. Instead of taking antibiotics for earaches or other infections, patients can simply rest, especially as antibiotic resistance is becoming such a serious problem. (Related: Are Antibiotics Worth The Risk?)

Based on a report from Public Health England (PHE), at least four in 10 patients with an E. coli blood infection are now immune to some of the most commonly used antibiotics. PHE’s medical director, Professor Paul Cosford, explained, “Antibiotic resistance is not a distant threat, but is in fact one of the most dangerous global crises facing the modern world today.”

While antibiotics are needed to help treat serious bacterial infections like meningitis, pneumonia, and sepsis, prescribing these drugs for minor ailments such as a cough or a sore throat allows harmful bacteria to thrive in the body. It could also cause antibiotic resistance, which will prevent the medication from working when a patient requires it the most.

Because of rampant antibiotic overuse, some drugs are now ineffective, and there are at least 5,000 deaths in England that are caused by infections that cannot be cured. Experts surmise that within the next 30 years, antibiotic resistance might kill more people than cancer and diabetes combined.

This crisis, dubbed the “post-antibiotic apocalypse,” might even cause some infections to worsen and be prolonged. To prevent antibiotic overuse, PHE has started a “keep antibiotics working campaign.”

The campaign, which urges patients to listen to their doctor’s advice when it comes to antibiotic prescriptions and reminds them when to rely on self-care for ill health, suggests that people with minor ailments should:

  • Get plenty of bed rest.
  • Stay hydrated.
  • Use tissues when suffering from a runny nose.
  • Wash hands often to prevent the spread of infection.

Professor Cosford commented, “Taking antibiotics when you don’t need them puts you and your family at risk of developing infections which in turn cannot be easily treated with antibiotics. Without urgent action from all of us, common infections, minor injuries and routine operations will become much riskier.”

Meanwhile, Dr. Chris Van Tulleken, University College London Hospitals’ infectious diseases doctor, warned, “As an infectious diseases doctor, I see first-hand what happens if antibiotics don’t work – and it’s scary… As GPs we are often asked to prescribe antibiotics by patients who think that they will cure all their ills.”

He ended, “The reality is that antibiotics are not always needed so you shouldn’t expect to be prescribed them by your doctor or nurse.”

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