Self Care Week 2017: Coughs, Colds and Antibiotics

Top tips for taking care of common winter illnesses – without using antibiotics

Now that the winter the season of colds, flu and other winter bugs has arrived, we would like to help you to get clued up about how to treat common winter illnesses, without asking for antibiotics.

Antibiotics are essential to treat serious bacterial infections, such as meningitis, pneumonia and sepsis, but they don’t work for viruses, such as coughs, colds and sore throats, that can get better by themselves.

Taking antibiotics encourages harmful bacteria that live inside you to become resistant. If you take antibiotics, when you don’t need them, the next time you get an infection it is more likely that antibiotics will not work, making it harder to treat.

“Antibiotics are often inappropriately prescribed when patients expect or demand them from their GP, without really understanding whether they will be effective for their illness. Please trust your GP to make the best decision on how to treat your illness.

Often people underestimate how long symptoms can last, and they go to the doctor because they think they should be feeling better after a couple of days. But no-one should need to see a GP for a cold. Winter bugs can take some time to clear up and, in the majority of cases, antibiotics simply will not help.

As a guide, a cold can last for two weeks, and a cough can continue for three weeks. It is not unusual to have a sore throat or earache for seven to eight days and sinusitis in adults can last up to three weeks.”

Dr Paul Danaher, GP and prescribing lead for Leicester City CCG

Factsheets and videos

Our Treating Winter Illnesses factsheet covers colds, flu, the norovirus, coughs and chest infections and tells you how long you can expect common winter bugs to last for.

The two Antibiotics leaflets explain about using antibiotics wisely and why they are not usually necessary for winter illnesses.

You can download the factsheet  and leaflets on the right of this page.

Video: NHS Choices – Colds and Flu