Are YOU antibiotics aware?
Antibiotics can solve myriad medical issues – but they come with a worrying catch. This October, 543 Dental is getting behind the launch of Keep Antibiotics Working – Public Health England’s campaign to raise awareness about the problem of antibiotic resistance.
As dentists, we regularly prescribe antibiotics to treat oral infections. But, because antibiotics are used so frequently as a quick fix for minor problems, people across the world are developing a resistance to the very medicines on which modern healthcare depends.
What many people don’t realise is that, in constantly treating our coughs, colds and toothaches with antibiotics, we’re gradually developing resistance that will prevent treatment of much more serious illnesses in the future – cancer, sepsis, tuberculosis and broken bones, to name just a few.
There has been no development of new antibiotics in the past few decades – so while the race is on to discover new drugs, we all need to take another look at how we can tackle minor illnesses without compromising our future health. If we don’t, we could be facing the prospect of returning to a pre-antibiotic society – in which death from common infections is the norm.
If you’re thinking this all sounds a bit over-dramatic, take a look at some sobering statistics:
• 44,000 people in the UK die every year from sepsis (blood poisoning caused by your body’s response to infection, which can only be treated with antibiotics) – that’s more than those dying from lung cancer (35,000) or bowel cancer (16,000).
• It is estimated that 5,000 people die each year in England as a result of antibiotics no longer working for some infections – that’s 13 people every day.
• If left unchecked, antibiotic resistance could lead to 10 million deaths by 2050 worldwide, costing some £66 trillion!
• By 2050, the global death toll could be one person every three seconds.
• Current resistance is forcing health professionals to prescribe drugs with evermore significant side effects – not a sustainable solution.
So, what can we do? While doctors and dentists are working hard to reduce over-prescription of antibiotics – the government wants to halve this by 2020 – for the rest of us, the answer lies in awareness, good hygiene and a healthy lifestyle.
Top tips for Keeping Antibiotics Working
• Practise good hygiene to reduce the spread of infections
• Always follow your doctor or dentist’s advice. Antibiotics should be taken at regular intervals, never be shared and the full course of treatment should be completed – not saved for the future.
• Let your body fight minor infections naturally. Antibiotics DO NOT WORK for colds, or for most coughs, sore throat, earache or viral infections. Consider alternatives and speak to your pharmacist about over the counter remedies.
• Only get your antibiotics from a certified health professional. Self-diagnosing and illegal purchase of antibiotics play a huge role in the resistance problem.
• Get a flu jab if you’re eligible. If you are vaccinated, you will help prevent the spread of infection.