Antibiotics won't help colds and flu

Government reminds Aussies that misuse of antibiotics may add to superbug problem.
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01.Misuse of antibiotics could lead to resistance

lady with a cold blowing her nose

Nearly two in three (65%) of Australian workers mistakenly believe antibiotics work for colds and flu, and that taking them will get them back to work sooner, according to a survey conducted on behalf of the National Prescribing Service (NPS).

NPS MedicineWise, the federal government medicines advisory service, is reminding people this is not the case, and warns this could be contributing to the spread of antibiotic resistance in Australia.

“Antibiotics only work for bacterial infections, not viral infections like colds and flu — but these new findings show many people still mistakenly believe that antibiotics make a difference when they have a virus,” says Dr Andrew Boyden, NPS MedicineWise clinical adviser.

“To help prevent the growing problem of antibiotic resistance it’s important that all Australians recognise and address this misconception.”

The World Health Organization (WHO) has identified antimicrobial resistance as an increasingly serious threat to global public health that threatens the effective prevention and treatment of a growing range of infections caused by bacteria, parasites, viruses and fungi.

“Using antibiotics when they’re not needed, like for colds and flu, is contributing to antibiotic resistance. This is making bacterial infections, such as pneumonia and tuberculosis, harder to treat with potentially dire consequences”, says Dr Boyden.

The survey unveiled another common yet mistaken belief, where 42% of Australia workers think they have caught a cold or flu by getting cold or wet, or by catching a chill.

“You can’t catch a cold or flu from the weather yet many Australian workers seem to believe that that they have had a cold or flu from getting cold, wet or ‘catching a chill’,” says Dr Boyden.

“Colds and flu are viral infections that are spread from person to person so good hygiene is paramount.”

Hygiene measures to help prevent the spread of colds and flu in the workplace include:

  • Staying at home if you are unwell.
  • Using a tissue when coughing or sneezing and disposing of it properly.
  • Washing your hands with soap and running water, particularly after coughing or blowing your nose, and before preparing or eating food. If you don’t have access to running water, alcohol hand rub is a good alternative.
  • Avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Not sharing cups, glasses and cutlery.
  • Keeping household surfaces clean.

CHOICE has reviewed cold and flu treatments, and found many commonly available remedies are not very effective, and preventative measures, including the flu shot, are your best bet.

You can read more about the NPS MedicineWise survey on its website, including its other findings. People can also find out more about antibiotic resistance and using antibiotics wisely, and take the pledge to fight antibiotic resistance.



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