You are here:

The Antibiotic Awareness Campaign

About antibiotic awareness

Antibiotics are important medicines for treating bacterial infections in both humans and animals. However, bacteria can adapt and find ways to survive the effects of an antibiotic.

This means antibiotics are losing their effectiveness at an increasing rate. The more we use antibiotics, the greater the chance bacteria will become resistant to them and they can no longer be used to treat infections. Learn more about antibiotics.

Antibiotic resistance is one of the most significant threats to patients' safety in Europe. It is driven by overusing antibiotics and prescribing them inappropriately. 

To slow down the development of antibiotic resistance, it is important to use antibiotics in the right way – to use the right drug, at the right dose, at the right time, for the right duration. Antibiotics should be taken as prescribed, and never saved for later or shared with others.

Watch What is antibiotic resistance, and why should we care? and visit the Antibiotic Guardian website to make a pledge about how you'll make better use of antibiotics and help save this vital medicine from becoming obsolete.

European Antibiotic Awareness Day (EAAD)

Every year, European Antibiotic Awareness Day is held on November 18. It's a European-wide public health initiative that encourages the responsible use of antibiotics.

Public Health England (PHE) is responsible for co-ordinating EAAD activities in England. PHE is working towards the One Health initiative, in collaboration with the Veterinary Medicines Directorate of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), the Department of Health, devolved administrations, and other professional organisations.

The One Health initiative recognises that the health of people, animals and the environment are all closely linked. It brings together multiple disciplines that aim to provide good health for all.

What is the problem?

Antibiotic resistance is an everyday problem in all healthcare settings across England and Europe. The spread of resistant bacteria in hospitals or community healthcare settings is a major issue for patient safety:

  • Infections with antibiotic-resistant bacteria increase levels of disease and death, as well as the length of time people stay in hospitals.
  • Inappropriate use of antibiotics may increasingly cause patients to become colonised or infected with resistant bacteria.
  • Few new antibiotics are being developed. As resistance in bacteria grows, it will become more difficult to treat infection, and this affects patient care.

What is causing this problem?

The inappropriate use and prescribing of antibiotics is causing the development of resistance.

Inappropriate use includes:

  • not taking your antibiotics as prescribed
  • skipping doses of antibiotics
  • not taking antibiotics at regular intervals
  • saving some for later
  • sharing antibiotics with others

Inappropriate prescribing includes:

  • unnecessary prescription of antibiotics
  • unsuitable use of broad-spectrum antibiotics
  • wrong selection of antibiotics
  • inappropriate duration or dose of antibiotics

How can it be addressed?

There are several ways antibiotic resistance can be addressed.

First, antibiotic prescribing should be made a strategic priority in hospitals by:

  • targeting antibiotic therapy
  • implementing structured antimicrobial stewardship plans
  • reviewing local surveillance and assessing microbiological data

Antibiotic prescribing should also be made a priority in primary care by developing an antibiotic stewardship tool for prescribers.

Antibiotics awareness Q&A

Test your knowledge – try the antibiotics quiz created by Public Health England. Or you can read the antibiotics awareness Q&A below before you try the quiz. More general information about antibiotics can be found in the Health A-Z section on this website.

Why shouldn't antibiotics be used to treat colds, most coughs and sore throats?

All colds and most coughs and sore throats are caused by viruses. Generally, these will get better on their own and with self care. Antibiotics do not work against infections caused by viruses. Viral infections are also much more common than bacterial infections.

Why can't other antibiotics be used to treat resistant bacteria?

They can, but they may not be as effective and may have more side effects. Eventually the bacteria will become resistant to them, and we may not always be able to find new antibiotics to replace them. Fewer new antibiotics have been discovered in recent years.

How can antibiotic resistance be avoided?

By using antibiotics more appropriately, we can slow down the development of resistance. It's not possible to stop it completely, but slowing it down stops resistance spreading and buys some time to develop new types of antibiotics.

What can I do about antibiotic resistance?

Don't ask for antibiotics. Consider alternatives by asking your GP or pharmacist about over-the-counter remedies that can help in the first instance. You should use antibiotics only when it's appropriate to do so. Take antibiotics exactly as prescribed – never save them for future use and never share them with others.

When will I be prescribed antibiotics?

Antibiotics should only be taken when prescribed by a health professional. Your doctor will only prescribe antibiotics when you need them – for example, for a kidney infection or pneumonia. Antibiotics may be lifesaving for infections such as meningitis. By not using them unnecessarily, they're more likely to work when we do need them.


The 15 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

VeriryMabel said on 14 June 2015

I discovered that Boots sell a throat lozenge that claims on the packet to contain antibiotic. The name of the lozenge is Tyrozets. Surely this is wrong - there is nothing in the instructions about taking them for any particular number of days. Surely antibiotics should only be available on prescription.. With the current concerns over antibiotic resistance this seems irresponsible

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

jenny40 said on 19 February 2015

After 10 years of being ill and diagnosed at first with ME I have finaly got a diagnosis of pseudomonas aeruginosa thar is reaiatant to all other antibiotics I had been given. The GP said to me they had prescribed the wrong antibiotics and I was given ciprofloxacin for 7 days. This didnt get rid of it and the GP I next saw refused to prescribe me any more abtibiotics when prior to diagnosis I was handed out the wrong ones like smarties over telephone and an ear swab or referal to an ENT was refused.
I had to go to a hospital and was given a 10 day course to try and get on top of the infection and when I went back to GP they purposely refused to treat any more or refer me anywhere. Why do that other then wanting to have nithing to do with the case anymore.
I have had to change to a new GP who gave me cipro ear drops for outer ear but nothing for the middle ear or nerve pain. I am currently waiting to get an apointment to see an ENT specialist at a specialist hospital and had to get a letter from my neurologist for new GP to agree to it.
I have never been one to get antibiotics for nithing and believe I have got this in a hospital. It cant be diagnosed by normal test swab as I had to wait until I had a discharge from inner ear before I got diagnosed.

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

streps said on 23 November 2014

Although this campaign is good and necessary to be able to effetively fight bacteria in the future, it seems like some physicians take the advice to the extreme having people suffer, mostly out of indifference or incompetence.

The other major problem and reason for antibiotics resistence is, however, its extensive use in agriculture. especially fowl, but also pigs and catltle are fed abs proactively, their faeces are spread as fertilizer, here we go, producing resistent ecoli etc. an masse. However, it is almost impossible to address the problem in the agrobusiness.

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

Katejo said on 10 December 2013

I have just had a bad chesty cold and haven't fully recovered. I am fully aware of the reasons for not taking antibiotics but find it difficult to judge when it might be appropriate. I have met many inconsistencies in the advice from doctors and particularly pharmacists. This is worrying since patients are advised to get guidance from the pharmacy. I tested it on this occasion and it was exactly the same. The pharmacist tells you that if you have thick yellow mucus you have an infection and need antibiotics. They also try to push you to buy cough medicine.
The GP whom I saw this time initially said that the infection was clearing but, when I mentioned having a slight fever, he said I had an infection and possibly should take the antibiotics. Why? Colds cause fever too. The person on the NHS helpline also seemed to think that antibiotics would be appropriate.

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

mcnaugha said on 05 August 2013

Vauvert and Soozo1 just aren't getting it. Antibiotics have no action whatsoever on cold and flu virus. Any perceived benefit is purely placebo. The cold and flu resolves in the same time as you've perceived the antibiotics to have made a difference. You can swamp cold viruses, in a lab environment, with antibiotics and they are completely unaffected. Antibiotics only affect bacteria. Nothing more nothing less. No one is suffering longer because they didn't get antibiotics.

Chronic fatigue and ME are once again caused by a virus. The Epstein-Barr virus to be precise. Again, you can soak this in any antibiotic and it will be entirely unfettered. If you catch another cold or flu virus then again antibiotics will be useless. They would only serve as placebo. In the meantime they've given some bacteria the chance to evolve immunity.

Without lab sample analysis, you cannot say whether or not you have a bacteria infection causing your symptoms. Statistically, weak immune system or not, the most likely cause of your infection is a virus.

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

666ladyem said on 30 March 2013

I'm the co-ordinator for the charity UKPIPS. We are working to care for people with Primary Antibody Deficiencies and other Primary Immune Deficiencies. Those of us with a serious primary antibody deficiency rely heavily on antibiotics that work and because of this we encourage the appropriate use of antibiotics. In other words, please DON'T prescribe them for those who don't need them, but, please DO prescribe them for those of us that do. We are in the procdess of contacting the Royal College of General Practitioners to discuss how their TARGET toolkit can be used to help identify people who have an undiagnosed Primary Immundeficiency. Sadly the delay in diagnosis for these diseases is far too long, averaging about 7 years in the UK. The most terrible stories I hear are from patients whose GP's have recognised that their are problems with a persons immune system from blood tests and yet decide to take a "wait and see" stance. This is disgraceful, since there are treatments for these diseases, yet without appropriate treatment, patients will develop irreversible organ damage. Any patient who has repeated infections should ask their GP for a referral to their nearest clinical immunologist, since many PID's cannot be detected by the basic tests available to GP's.

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

Kocour said on 05 December 2012

I am disappointed that vitamin B is not included in the antibiotic treatment anymore as it was in the past. Damages of the gut microflora caused by antibiotics might be irreversible.

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

Vauvert said on 01 December 2012

Patients appear to be taking on the responsibility of inappropriate prescribing. As only a doctor writes the prescription there should be no guilt from patients asking, requesting or demanding antibiotics whenever they fell unwell.

It is up to the doctor to decide whether to help the patient with antibiotics or choose to let some patients suffer a little more for the good of the many then so be it.

A patients responsibility is to complete the course of antibiotics as instructed.

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

BsMum said on 15 October 2012

It is over use of antibiotics for minor infections or viral infections that contributes to resistance. i am sure people would be feeling alot worse in ten years time if we do nothing about this and we have no antibiotics to treat serious life threatening infections. i cant imagine how bad it must be to see a loved onw suffer because they have an infection that is resistant to all the antibiotics we have and being totally helpless to help them.... its worth feeling a little bit ill and letting your immune system do its job to secure the future treatment of life threatening infections- esp for viral infections that do not even respond to antibiotics!

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

carolad said on 02 June 2012

I can't find any advice relating to my question. I have anti-biotics that have been subjected to temperature over 25 degrees C. does this mean they may be dangerous to take?

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

koneki said on 15 February 2012

I agree that antibiotics shouldn't be used for colds and the like, but I disagree with the way it's being carried out, as I have severe asthma, and last time I had a chest infection, the doctor didn't want to prescribe antibiotics, and believed I could 'fight it off', which led to me suffering multiple asthma attacks for two weeks.
This is despite me telling him that when I have a chest infection, my asthma gets pretty bad, and that it has sometimes taken me longer than 6 weeks to 'shake off' a chest infection.

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

lizofleeds said on 18 November 2010

I had a very heavy cold over last Christmas and the New Year. I put up with it as we should do. Then the cold was replaced by a really persistent cough. This went on for three or four weeks, keeping me awake at night and driving colleagues in the office mad. As the cough showed no signs of easing up I went to my GP. I hated to ask for antibiotics but I was practically a zombie at work through lack of sleep, not to mention the headaches and sore throat from coughing. My GP reluctantly prescribed antibiotics and within a few days I was pretty much back to normal. So where do you draw the line? It's not always an easy decision to make.

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

Quizers said on 23 October 2010

I have a fiance' whom I guess she has a health problem' because most of the time she like complaining of ads chest n coughing mostly during mornig ours n evening hours,so I don't know what could be problem? Kindly try to help me because I would like to know so that she can get early treated instead of her using antibiotics twenty for hours,which's dangerous to her health according to NHS advice.chao n please help.quizers from kenya.

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

fishe1 said on 13 October 2010

I've had a similar problem - lab tests show infection - known immunodeficiency but GP wants to just "wait and see" because that is what he is being told to do. - doesn't understand condition or the guidelines which should take accoount of such - check out NICE guidelines on respiratory tract infections.
On the flip side, as a health care professional I have to tell "normal" people they don't need antibiotics and many don't believe you - this campaing does help a little - it is the GPs who in the past have given out antibiotics for years without thinking that have created a culture of people who think that it will cure them - then wonder why they are still ill a week later.
The campaign is right we need to educate normal healthy people to stop running to the doctors everytime they sneeze - some GPs need to stop throwing antibiotics about like sweets just to get rid of their patients - and read the guidelines properly -or in some cases read their patients notes properly.

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

Soozo1 said on 22 September 2010

I'm really angry about this campaign. Doctors also need to be more aware that people who suffer with a bad immune system/chronic fatigue and ME come seeking help and get turned away and told it's just a 'cold'. This has happened to me on several occasions, I've gone in when my chest infection has developed and turned away, then two weeks later i'm prescribed with antibiotics which could've cleared my infection to start off with.

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

Page last reviewed: 26/10/2015

Next review due: 26/10/2017

AntibioticGuardian - logo

Antibiotic Guardian

Pledge how you’ll make better use of antibiotics and help save this medicine from becoming obsolete

Download the antibiotics information leaflet (PDF, 521,56kb)- external link

Video: Treating your infection without antibiotics

This video outlines how to treat colds, coughs, flu and sore throats without antibiotics

What is antibiotic resistance, and why should we care?

Antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest threats facing us today. Without effective antibiotics, many routine treatments will become increasingly dangerous. Setting broken bones, basic operations and chemotherapy all rely on access to antibiotics that work. Find out what you can do to slow down antibiotic resistance.

Media last reviewed: 24/09/2014

Next review due: 24/09/2016