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Nine in ten parents worried about the possibility of a world in which antibiotics are no longer effective

If antibiotics were to become ineffective, survey respondents indicated that their biggest concern would be that serious health conditions, such as meningitis, pneumonia and sepsis, would become untreatable. Mumsnet users said they were concerned about the future health of their children and 91% agreed with the statement that, ‘taking antibiotics when you don’t need them puts you and your family at risk’.

Antibiotics are crucial to almost all aspects of modern medicine and are essential to treat serious bacterial infections; but they are frequently being used for 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, which means that antibiotics may not work when you really need them. It is estimated that at least 5,000 deaths are caused every year in England because antibiotics no longer work for some infections. This figure is set to rise, with experts predicting that in just over 30 years, when our children are grown up, antibiotic resistance will kill more people than cancer and diabetes combined.

PHE has launched a major new campaign, ‘Keep Antibiotics Working’, which warns people that taking antibiotics when they are not needed puts them and their families at risk of a more severe or longer infection, urging people to take their doctor’s advice on antibiotics.

If you or a family member are feeling unwell, have the flu, sore throat or ear ache, or you haven’t been prescribed antibiotics, the ‘Keep Antibiotics Working’ campaign provides some effective self-care ways to help you and other family members feel better:

  • Ask your pharmacist to recommend medicines to help with symptoms or pain
  • Get plenty of rest
  • Drink enough fluids to avoid feeling thirsty
  • Use paracetamol if you or your child are uncomfortable as a result of fever – which is a sign of the body fighting infection, and normally gets better by itself in most cases
  • Use tissues for your nose and wash your hands frequently to avoid spreading your infection to family and friends

If you or your child are getting worse or are sicker than you would expect, even if your/their temperature falls, trust your instincts and seek medical advice urgently from NHS 111 or your GP.

Mumsnet CEO Justine Roberts said: “It’s clear that parents are very worried by the prospect of a world without effective antibiotics. Mums and dads understandably find the idea of their child contracting a serious infection, such as meningitis or sepsis, very frightening in itself: having no access to medicines in such a situation would be unthinkable - and yet it has become a serious risk. We’re pleased to be working together with Public Health England on the Keep Antibiotics Working campaign, and urge parents to take the advice of their GPs when it comes to using antibiotics.”

Dr Susan Hopkins, Healthcare Epidemiologist at Public Health England, said: “Antibiotic resistance is deeply worrying and this survey shows that parents share our concerns about how the problem might affect their families in the future. No one likes being sick and it’s especially upsetting when your child is ill but it’s important to remember that antibiotics aren’t always needed. The campaign urges the public to always trust their doctor, nurse or pharmacist’s advice as to when they need antibiotics and if they are prescribed, take antibiotics as directed and never save them for later use or share with others.”


For further information on antibiotics, their uses and the risk of resistance, search ‘NHS antibiotics’ online.

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