Antibiotics don’t work on colds, warns medical chief

A revamped publicity campaign, launched by the health department today, has warned that antibiotics should not be taken for colds, most coughs and sore throats.

The aim of the campaign, which features a cartoon character called 'Andy Biotic', is to try to reduce the inappropriate use of antibiotics. The campaign will include radio adverts, leaflet inserts in newspapers, advertising in shopping centres and bus stops. Leaflets will also be available in GP surgeries, pharmacies and other public outlets.

This is the fourth time the campaign has been run (the first occasion was back in the winter of 1999) and it aims to support health professionals in their management of patients with acute respiratory tract infections or sore throats.

The campaign will also encourage patients to seek advice from community pharmacists on safe and appropriate symptomatic relief, as well as explain that antibiotics will also kill the ‘good bacteria’ that we all need to keep us healthy.

Stressing the importance of the campaign, Chief Medical Officer, Dr Henrietta Campbell, said: “This campaign carries a very important message. If we do not limit the prescribing of antibiotics for minor complaints, they will eventually lose their effectiveness against many illnesses. Bacteria are very clever and can adapt to become resistant to antibiotics. This means that antibiotics are becoming less effective at fighting many infections.”

Dr Campbell added: “The objective of this campaign is to make patients aware that most coughs, sore throats and colds do not need antibiotic treatment, but can be managed with simple remedies while they run their natural course. This can be up to a week for sore throats and longer for colds and chesty coughs.”

There has been a marked reduction in antibiotic prescribing in Northern Ireland over the last five years, which indicates that the message is being driven home, both to the public and health professionals.

Figures indicate that there are around 325,000 fewer prescriptions being written each year for antibiotics than there were in 1998.


Related Northern Ireland News Stories
Click here for the latest headlines.

11 March 2020
Covid-19: NI Total Jumps To 18
Two further cases of the Covid-19 strain of coronavirus have been identified in Northern Ireland. Both cases are adults and are "secondary transmissions", meaning they can be linked to another infected individual who travelled to northern Italy. It brings totals in Northern Ireland to 18.
18 March 2020
Woman Arrested In Patient Abuse Probe
A 28 year-old woman has been arrested by detectives investigating allegations of ill-treatment at Muckamore Abbey Hospital. The suspect was detained in Antrim this morning, Wednesday 18 March. It comes amid allegations of patient abuse at the facility, where people with severe learning disabilities and mental health needs are cared for.
18 March 2020
Latest Coronavirus Figures Emerge
A further six coronavirus cases have been confirmed in Northern Ireland as the first and deputy First Ministers call for a "whole of society" approach. Arlene Foster and Michelle O'Neill say measures to support and protect the general public will only be effective if everyone follows health advice. The new cases bring totals to 68.
12 March 2020
Coronavirus: BCC To Hold Special Meeting
Belfast City councillors are to convene in a special meeting to assess the growing threat of coronavirus. It comes after it emerged that protection measures are to be stepped up in the Republic of Ireland, with all schools, colleges and childcare facilities to close. A total of 20 cases of the virus have been confirmed in Northern Ireland.
19 March 2020
Covid-19: Surge Plan Measures Revealed
The Department of Health is implementing a number of surge plan measures to manage the growing transmission of Covid-19 across Northern Ireland. Two key measures in the plan are the purchase of 40 new ventilators to boost availability to 179 by the end of March and the acceleration of testing to 800 per day.