Keep Antibiotics Working

Keep Antibiotics Working

Antibiotics are essential to treat serious bacterial infections but they are frequently being used to treat illnesses, such as coughs, earache and sore throats that can get better by themselves. Taking antibiotics encourages harmful bacteria that live inside you to become resistant. That means that antibiotics may not work when you really need them. As antibiotic resistance increases common procedures such as caesarean sections and hip replacements could become life-threatening without antibiotics to ward off infections. Cancer patients are also much more vulnerable if antibiotics don’t work; both cancer and the treatment (chemotherapy) reduce the ability of the immune system to fight infections and antibiotics are critical to both prevent and treat infections in these patients.

The ‘Keep Antibiotics Working’ campaign reminds you that taking antibiotics when you don’t need them puts you and your family at risk. It’s important that, when it comes to antibiotics, you always take your doctor, nurse or healthcare professional’s advice.

For further information on antibiotic resistance visit

What are viral infections, and can they be treated by antibiotics?

These are infections that are caused by a virus rather than bacteria. The most common viral infections that people get are colds and flu. But viruses also are the cause of most coughs, sore throats, and ear infections. Antibiotics are not effective against viruses.

To help prevent antibiotic resistance, antibiotics should only be taken as prescribed, and never saved for later use or shared with others. Always follow your Doctor’s advice on antibiotics.

Did you know?

  • 1 in 3 people in England take at least one course of antibiotics each year
  • 38% of people expected an antibiotic from a doctor’s surgery, NHS walk-in centre or ‘GP out of hours’ service when they visited with a cough, flu or a throat, ear, sinus or chest infection in 2017
  • After antibiotic treatment for a urinary tract infection or respiratory tract infection adults have up to 3 times the odds of a drug resistant infection if they have another infection in subsequent months.
  • Research published by Public Health England estimates that at least 20% of all antibiotic prescriptions written in primary care settings in England are inappropriate
  • Antibiotic resistant bloodstream infections continue to rise in England, with a 35% increase from 2013 to 2017
  • Over three million surgical operations and cancer treatments a year could become life threatening without antibiotics