Running alongside the NHS’s Self Care Week (16th – 24th November) is World Antibiotic Awareness Week. Run by the World Health Organisation, the campaign is being implemented all over the world in a bid to increase awareness around antibiotic resistance and hopefully prevent it from increasing. As an important global health issue, it’s important that everyone takes notice of what could be an avoidable problem.

What is World Antibiotic Awareness Week?

World Antibiotic Awareness Week is a plan designed to increase awareness of antibiotic resistance all over the world, and it is hoped that all 68 member states of the World Health Organisation will do their bit to spread this important message. The campaign’s theme is ‘Antibiotics: Handle with Care’, referring to the fact that antibiotics should be used moderately, and not as a ‘cure-all’ solution. There will be activities and key messages delivered throughout the week, as well as activities which everyone can get involved in.

The week ties in with European Antibiotics Awareness Day, which takes place every year on the 18th of November and aims to encourage the sensible use of antibiotics across Europe.

What is antibiotic resistance?

The discovery of the first antibiotic as we know today, penicillin, in 1929 by Alexander Fleming, was revolutionary in how we treat diseases and infections. Fast forward to today however, and antibiotics are being overused to treat illnesses – making people resistant to their effects. The consequence of this is that illnesses and diseases which rely heavily on antibiotics to cure them, become harder and harder to treat, leading to further illnesses and casualties. Common examples of when individuals rely on antibiotics include when a person is faced with a broken bone, chemotherapy or even a routine operation. The fault for this lies not only with individuals, but with the healthcare professionals who prescribe the antibiotics, as well as the governments who regulate them.

Antibiotic resistance and Self Care Week – what you can do

The NHS’ Self Care Week is aiming to encourage individuals to take charge of their own health and learn how to treat minor illnesses such as colds and flu, as well as making lifestyle changes to prevent them. Through doing this, we will become less and less reliant on a trip to our GP to fix a cold or viral infection, and therefore will not be able to access the antibiotics which are currently so easily available. Some of the steps you can take to slow down antibiotic resistance include:

  • Not asking for it. If you can ask your doctor for alternative medication or even using over-the-counter products, you can avoid taking them unnecessarily.
  • If you’ve got a sore throat, a cold or flu, and it’s not considered serious, make the most of your pharmacist. They will be able to advise you on the best way to treat yourself at home, using readily available medications to help you. These types of illnesses are usually caused by viruses, which will go away on their own without the need for antibiotics.
  • If you are prescribed antibiotics, be sure to take them as directed. Take the full course as prescribed, never save any for the future and do not share them with others.

Make the pledge

As part of World Antibiotic Awareness Week, why not pledge to make better use of antibiotics in a bid to slow down antibiotic resistance? Antibiotic Guardian was created in association with Public Health England and is designed to help educate those in England about antibiotic resistance and the sensible use of antibiotic medications. It takes seconds to make a pledge and is an easy, free way to show your support.

For more information about antibiotic resistance and to see what you can do to slow down its effects, head to the NHS website which has a number of resources to give you a helping hand.