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HSE warns people of dangers of taking unprescribed antibiotics

The HSE is warning people to be aware of the dangers of taking unprescribed antibiotics.

The message is being highlighted on European Antibiotic Awareness Day today.

The aim of the appeal being made is to prevent people from getting sick.

The HSE said that antibiotics "are priceless for serious bacterial infections" but they "do not work for colds or flu so doctors prefer not to give you an antibiotic when it can’t help you".

They added that antibiotics can cause more harm than good and they should be used only as prescribed and when needed.

The HSE says one in 10 patients will have a side effect to the medication and in some cases, antibiotics can cause serious illness.

"When properly used antibiotics have been wonder drugs," said Professor Martin Cormican, the HSE's National Lead for Antibiotic Resistance.

"In the last century they were called ‘magic bullets’. In very sick patients antibiotics like penicillin were like magic.

"Before we had antibiotics a simple blood infection was often the cause of death.

"When we prescribe antibiotics we have to use them carefully to get the most benefit for people who need them while protecting people who do not need them from side effects and from antibiotic resistance."

Dr Nuala O’Connor of the Irish College of General Practitioners and Lead Advisor on Antibiotic Resistance explained: "Antibiotics are not effective for the treatment of viruses - they only kill bacteria."

She stressed: "Antibiotics will do nothing to help the symptoms of viral infections. They will not make you feel better.

"They will not reduce a fever; they will not relieve a cough; they will not relieve pain."

A report published today by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control found that Ireland is the third-worst country in the EU for prescribing antibiotics, for the reason it took less time than for doctors to have to explain why a patient did not need them.

This is something Stephen McMahon from the Irish Patients Association says needs to be addressed.

He said: "It's probably another symptom of the pressures that family doctors are finding themselves under with the workloads they have to work under."