Think twice and seek advice before taking antibiotics

Think twice and seek advice before taking antibiotics

It’s World Antibiotic Awareness Week and Southern DHB is encouraging everyone to ‘Seek advice from a qualified health care professional before taking antibiotics.’


“This is the theme of Antibiotic Awareness Week this year, and it’s a very important message. Taking antibiotics when they are not needed can cause bacteria to become resistant, meaning current treatments will no longer work,” says Southern DHB Chief Medical Officer, Dr Nigel Millar.


“It is important only to take antibiotics that are prescribed to you and remember that antibiotics are not always the answer. A good example is that antibiotics don’t cure viruses like colds and flu. There are very few new antibiotics being developed, which is why it is important that those we have are used wisely to make sure these life-saving medicines continue to stay effective for ourselves and future generations.”


At Southern DHB patients, visitors and staff are being educated about antibiotic resistance through displays in the hospital foyer of Dunedin Hospital and slides on the TV screens. The DHB is also posting information on its Facebook page and on its staff intranet.


“Antibiotic resistance is a worldwide problem that affects us all. Continued overuse of antibiotics risks a catastrophic situation where bacteria resistant to all antibiotics are common. This would make most modern surgery extremely dangerous and largely impossible. This is not a remote chance – there is a real possibility of this happening in our lifetimes. Hip replacements, cardiac surgery, cancer surgery and chemotherapy could become unacceptably dangerous and therefore impossible.


“We owe it to our children to stop the overuse now – tomorrow may be too late. Otherwise they may find themselves in a world where medicine has moved backwards 50 years,” says Dr Millar.


What can I do?


There are a number of things you can do to help protect the use of antibiotics.


  • It is important we use antibiotics the right way, at the right dose, at the right time, for the right duration
  • By using antibiotics carefully, bacteria are less likely to become resistant to them
  • Talk to your health professional about whether you are likely to have a bacterial infection needing antibiotics, or a viral infection which antibiotics won’t help
  • Everyone has a part to play in reducing antibiotic resistance:
    • Hand washing can help prevent the spread of germs, reducing the need for antibiotics
    • Covering your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, and putting the used tissue in a waste bin can help reduce the spread of germs
    • Never use ‘leftover’ antibiotics or share your antibiotics with others. Return unused medicines to your pharmacy for appropriate disposal
    • Vaccinations can stop you getting and spreading infections that may need treatment with antibiotics.

Information about Antibiotic Awareness Week is available from the Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization

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