NOW CLOSED: Antibiotics - your questions answered


The threat of antibiotic resistance is a growing issue, so it is really important to understand the best uses of antibiotics. Read the answers to the questions you put to Dr Jyoti Sood; and enter our competition to win a Love2Shop voucher worth £250

1. Can you explain what antibiotic resistance is, exactly? Do people become resistant, or the bugs themselves?

Antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria develop ways to stop antibiotics from working. Every time you take antibiotics it causes harmful bacteria that live inside you to become resistant and this means that antibiotics may not work when you really need them.

It’s a problem we are facing now – it is estimated that at least 5,000 deaths are caused every year in England because antibiotics no longer work for some infections, and this figure is set to rise, with experts predicting that in just over 30 years antibiotic resistance will kill more people than cancer and diabetes combined.

2. How do GPs make the decision of when antibiotics are warranted and when they are not?

Your doctor will discuss your symptoms with you and take into consideration your medical history and any long-term conditions you might have. It’s important not to expect antibiotics as they don’t work for everything, and many common illnesses, such as earache and sore throat, can get better on their own. Always take your doctor’s advice.

3. I'm a firm believer in waiting for things to get better, but generally how long do symptoms have to last before antibiotics are required?

It’s important to always take your doctor or nurse’s advice as to whether antibiotics are required. Antibiotics don’t work for viruses like colds and flu and many illnesses, such as earaches, coughs and sore throats, can simply get better on their own. Remember that your local pharmacist can recommend medicines to help with you or your child’s symptoms or pain.

Here are a few guidelines to help you judge how long some common illnesses and symptoms should last for:

If you’re not feeling better by the dates provided in these guidelines, or are feeling a lot worse, contact your doctor or call NHS 111.

4. Does tonsillitis always need to be treated with antibiotics?

Tonsillitis is a common childhood illness and you can usually treat it at home without antibiotics. Symptoms can last for around one week, but most people will get better within this time without antibiotics, regardless of cause (bacteria or virus).

The following tips can be used to help ease you or your child’s symptoms:

  • Get plenty of rest
  • Drink cool drinks to soothe the throat
  • Take paracetamol or ibuprofen (don't give aspirin to children under 16)

5. My two-year-old daughter was recently prescribed antibiotics for the first time for a bad chest. She had a reaction to the penicillin and broke out in spots and was quite poorly. Are there many different type of antibiotics or other options?

If after chatting to your doctor they decide that antibiotics are needed, there are different types that can be prescribed. To help them find the correct treatment for you or your child, make sure you mention any allergies or issues experienced in the past.

To find out more information about the different types of antibiotics please visit the NHS Choices website.

6. I've just started a course of antibiotics for a week, can I still drink alcohol?

Some antibiotics have a variety of side effects, such as causing nausea and dizziness, which might be made worse by drinking alcohol. It's best to avoid drinking alcohol while feeling unwell anyway, as the alcohol itself can make you feel worse. It always key to take your doctor’s advice on any medication that you take.

7. Do you think that using long-term low dose antibiotics (for example, for moderate acne) is a risk in terms of becoming antibiotic resistant?

Your doctor will advise you on whether you need antibiotics and if they are prescribed, it’s important to take them as directed. For acne, your doctor will weigh up the risks and the benefits. Every time you take antibiotics the harmful bacteria inside you becomes increasingly resistant, but antibiotics are still very effective in treating conditions like acne. Acne can leave bad scars and taking antibiotics can reduce this. Taken as prescribed (usually for three – six months), it will generally clear the infection. If you’re worried about the risk of resistance then speak to your doctor.

8. Are naturally antibiotic foods such as garlic and honey recommended by doctors as an alternative to taking antibiotics?

Antibiotics are used to treat harmful infections such as meningitis, pneumonia and sepsis that cannot get better by themselves. If antibiotics are prescribed by a doctor it is because you really need them and foods like garlic and honey would not be considered as alternatives.

Win Love2Shop vouchers

As part of this Q&A, we're offering one lucky Mumsnetter a Love2Shop voucher worth £250. To be in with a chance of winning, simply answer the question below.

Competition closes 1 March 2018. T&Cs apply.