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The process of natural selection follows a sequence, as listed below.Some of the variations within a population may give some individuals an advantage over others in the population. Antibiotics which are used to treat bacterial infections should not be used to treat colds and flu and using them inappropriately will damage their power to fight serious infections.
Friday marks European Antibiotic Awareness Day (18th November), which seeks to remind people and health professionals about the importance of not using antibiotics to fight viral infections as there is a danger that they are losing their effectiveness faster than ever seen before.
Antibiotics have revolutionised medical care in the last 80 years and are now the best way to fight bacterial infection. In recent years the bugs have gained the upper hand, as they have the ability to change and adapt making some bacteria antibiotic resistant. This is dangerous as antibiotics are used to fight serious bacterial infections such as pneumonia, TB (tuberculosis), meningitis and blood poisoning, which can kill if they aren’t treated. If antibiotics are used for too many minor conditions or if people prescribed antibiotics don’t finish the course, then this will aid the ability of bacteria to fight against antibiotics. Some bacteria that cause infections in hospitals such as MRSA, are already resistant to several antibiotics.
If resistance to antibiotics continues to increase at its current rate there are worries that bacterial pneumonia could again mean a death sentence for some people, as it often did until just after the Second World War. In 2009 the World Health Organisation (WHO) stated that: “Antibiotic resistance is one of the three greatest threats to human health”. If you continue to use the site without changing your settings, we'll assume you agree to this.
Antibiotics are compounds that can kill or interfere with the growth of microorganisms such as bacteria or viruses. As more microorganisms become resistant, commonly used antimicrobials become ineffective against the diseases these microorganisms cause. Methicillin-resistantStaphylococcus aureus (MRSA), a strain of bacteria no longer sensitive to different forms of penicillin. Several different types of microorganisms live everywhere in our bodies—on our skin and in our intestinal tracts, for example. Antibiotics should not be used without a proven bacterial infection.Some antibiotics are designed to treat very specific infections while others can treat infections caused by several different microorganisms.
IntroductionAntibiotics are medications used to treat, and in some cases prevent, bacterial infections. Take antibiotics as directed on the packet or the patient information leaflet that comes with the medicine, or as instructed by your GP or pharmacist. It is essential to finish taking a prescribed course of antibiotics, even if you feel better, unless a healthcare professional tells you otherwise. If you forget to take a dose of your antibiotics, take that dose as soon as you remember and then continue to take your course of antibiotics as normal. However, if it is almost time for the next dose, skip the missed dose and continue your regular dosing schedule. If you have to take two doses closer together than normal, there is an increased risk of side effects. Accidentally taking one extra dose of your antibiotic is unlikely to cause you any serious harm.
However, it will increase your chances of experiencing side effects such as pain in your stomach, diarrhoea and feeling or being sick.
There are now hundreds of different types of antibiotics but most of them can be broadly classified into six groups.
Penicillins are widely used to treat a variety of infections such as skin infections, chest infections and urinary tract infections. Aminoglycosides tend to be used only to treat very serious illnesses such as septicaemia as they can cause serious side effects, including hearing loss and kidney damage. Fluoroquinolones are broad-spectrum antibiotics that can be used to treat a wide range of infections.
Around one person in 15 has an allergic reaction to antibiotics, especially penicillin and cephalosporins.
Some antibiotics are not suitable for people with certain medical conditions, or for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. Both the NHS and health organisations across the world are trying to reduce the use of antibiotics, especially for conditions that are not serious. Strains of bacteria can mutate (change) and, over time, become resistant to a specific antibiotic. Also, antibiotics can destroy many of the harmless strains of bacteria that live in and on the body.
The overuse of antibiotics in recent years has played a major part in antibiotic resistance. These types of infections can be serious and challenging to treat, and are becoming an increasing cause of disability and death across the world. The biggest worry is that there may emerge new strains of bacteria that are effectively untreatable by any existing antibiotics. Carbapenemase-producing Enterobacteriaceae are one such emerging group of bacteria, with several types. Antibiotics may also be recommended for people who are more vulnerable to the harmful effects of infection. There are several circumstances in which you may be given antibiotics as a precaution to prevent, rather than treat, an infection. For example, antibiotic prophylaxis is normally recommended if you are having surgery on a certain part of the body that is known to carry a high risk of infection or that could lead to devastating effects if it were to become accidentally infected.
Antibiotic prophylaxis may be recommended for a wound that has a high chance of becoming infected.
For example, an animal or human bite, or a wound that has come into contact with soil or faeces. There are several medical conditions that make people particularly vulnerable to infection, meaning antibiotic prophylaxis is necessary. For example, people who have had their spleen removed or those with the blood disorder sickle cell anaemia, whose spleen does not work properly, should take antibiotics to prevent some infection.
In some cases, antibiotic prophylaxis is prescribed for people who experience a recurring infection that is causing distress or an increased risk of complications.
ConsiderationsSome important considerations associated with the six main classes of antibiotics are listed below. Patients who are allergic to one type of penicillin will be allergic to all (the allergy is related to the basic penicillin structure).
If you have had a previous allergic reaction to penicillin you may also be allergic to cephalosporins.
You should never take a cephalosporin if you have acute porphyria, which is a genetic condition that can cause skin and nerve problems. Cephalosporins are thought to be safe to take during pregnancy but, as a precaution, they are only ever used if the benefits of treatment are thought to outweigh potential risks. You should not take a type of macrolide called telithromycin if you have myasthenia gravis, which is an uncommon condition that causes muscle weakness.
If you are pregnant or are breastfeeding, the only type of macrolide you can take is erythromycin (Erymax, Erythrocin, Erythroped or Erythroped A). These side effects are usually mild and should pass once you finish your course of treatment.
If you experience any additional side effects other than those listed above you should contact your GP or the doctor in charge of your care for advice. Around 1 person in 15 has an allergic reaction to antibiotics, especially penicillin and cephalosporins. These mild to moderate allergic reactions can usually be successfully treated by taking a medication known as antihistamines. However, if you are concerned or your symptoms fail to respond to treatment then you should call your GP for advice.

Tetracyclines can make your skin sensitive to sunlight as well as artificial sources of light such as sun lamps and sunbeds. The Yellow Card Scheme allows you to report suspected side effects from any type of medicine that you are taking. Interactions other medicinesAntibiotics can sometimes interact with other medicines or other substances.
If you want to check that your medicines are safe to take with your antibiotics, ask your GP or local pharmacist. Some of the medications you may need to avoid or seek advice on if taking a specific class of antibiotic are outlined below. It is usually recommended that you avoid taking penicillin at the same time as a medication called methotrexate, which is used to treat some types of cancers and severe autoimmune conditions such as the skin condition psoriasis. You may experience a skin rash if you take penicillin and a medication called allopurinol, which is used to treat gout.
If you need treatment with cephalosporins, you may temporarily have to stop taking the blood-thinning medication. However, the risk of kidney and hearing damage has to be balanced against the benefits of using aminoglycosides to treat life-threatening conditions such as septicaemia. Some fluoroquinolones can intensify the effects of caffeine (a stimulant found in coffee, tea and cola), which could make you feel irritable, restless and cause problems falling asleep (insomnia).
Finally, you may need to avoid taking medication that contains high levels of minerals or iron as this can block the beneficial effects of fluoroquinolones. It is recommended that you avoid alcohol with all antibiotics as drinking could make your infection last longer. Some antibiotics need to be taken with food while others need to be taken on an empty stomach. Make sure you read the information leaflet that comes with your medication carefully to find out whether this is the case. The best way to treat most colds, coughs or sore throats is to rest and drink plenty of fluids.
It is common for children to get coughs and colds, especially when they go to school and mix with other children. The more we use an antibiotic, the more likely it is that bacteria will become resistant to it. Other antibiotics can be used, but they may not be as effective and they may have more side effects.
Only two new types of antibiotics have been found in the past 30 years and there is no guarantee that new ones will be discovered. When antibiotics are prescribed, the complete course should be taken to get rid of the bacteria completely. Your doctor will only prescribe antibiotics when you need them, for example, for a kidney infection or pneumonia.
The information on this page has been adapted by NHS Wales from original content supplied by NHS Choices.
Managing cold and flu symptoms begins with eating and drinking a good combination of healthy foods and beverages and using natural remedies that have been proven to relieve cold and flu symptoms. Nasal decongestants which contain medicine like pseudoephedrine, phenylephrine, oxymetazoline and xylometazoline) reduce blood flow to the nose by constricting the blood vessels that feed it, and also act on the mucus membranes of the nose to reduce swelling that contributes to your nose feeling blocked and stuffy.
Nasal decongestant medications are available in tablet form or as a nasal spray and can be purchased without a prescription at pharmacies.
Always follow the instructions on the in the medicine packet, and never take more medicine than the leaflet recommends. For babies and children six years and under who are too young to use nasal decongestant medicines, apply saline nasal drops to clear the nose and reduce congestion.
If you experience hayfever (allergic rhinitis ) antihistamines may also be effective for treating sneezes and runny noses associated with cold and flu. Natural remedies like salt water gargle and lemon tea are often all you need to relieve sore throats, however sometimes you’ll need medicines as well.
Cough lollies which contain medicines, often called medicated lozenges, help relieve sore throats by increasing the amount of saliva your mouth produces, and lubricating the throat.
Medicated throat sprays and gargles are available over the counter from pharmacies, but research has shown that gargling with homemade salt water gargle is just as effective as gargling with medicine from the pharmacy.
When a cough is productive (wet) it should not be suppressed using cough medicine, except for short periods when you really can’t cope with your cough.
Cough medicines which contain both a cough suppressant and an expectorant to loosen mucus are available, but they are not recommended for treating coughs associated with cold and flu. Analgesics (painkillers) including paracetamol, ibuprofen and aspirin can be used to treat head or body aches.
Antibiotics are not effective against cold and flu viruses; they only work for bacterial infections, not viruses.
However, antibiotics are still sometimes thought of as cold and flu treatments and sometimes prescribed to treat cold or flu. Using these medicines when you have the flu can help reduce the duration of your illness and the severity of your symptoms. About myVMCVirtual Medical Centre is Australia’s leading source for trustworthy medical information written by health professionals based on Australian guidelines.
Please be aware that we do not give advice on your individual medical condition, if you want advice please see your treating physician. Scientists and doctors are calling for urgent action and warning that if people continue to misuse antibiotics and if new ones are not developed in the next decade, we will see more widespread antibiotic-resistant bacteria. This will increase the risk of antibiotic resistant infections such as E Coli developing and other serious conditions possibly becoming untreatable in the future.
A new superbug NDM-1 has last year identified in UK hospitals which is resistant to even the most powerful antibiotics.
Often patients seem to think that antibiotics are the golden cure to any illness and repeatedly ask for them, however there is a price for us all to pay if people keep on using them in the current quantities in which they are asked for and prescribed. Because antibiotics are often used unnecessarily or incorrectly, microorganisms have been able to adapt and survive.
In turn, the microorganisms become more virulent (more capable of producing serious illness).
Thus, antibiotics need to be used with medical guidance.Once a course of antibiotics is started for an infection, the entire course should be finished unless there are significant side effects. If you continue without changing your settings, we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies on the NHS Direct Wales website.
If you stop taking an antibiotic part way through a course, the bacteria can become resistant to the antibiotic (see below).
They are commonly used to treat moderate to severe acne and a condition called rosacea, which causes flushing of the skin and spots. Most antibiotics, if used properly, don't cause problems for people who take them and serious side effects are rare.
In very rare cases, this can lead to a serious allergic reaction (anaphylaxis), which is a medical emergency. It is therefore important to read the information leaflet that comes with your medication carefully.
This is to try to combat the problem of antibiotic resistance, which is when a strain of bacteria no longer responds to treatment with one or more types of antibiotics. The chance of this increases if a person does not finish the course of antibiotics as some bacteria may be left to develop resistance. This includes using antibiotics to treat minor conditions that would have got better anyway.
These are strains of bacteria that have developed resistance to many different types of antibiotics. These bacteria are widespread in some parts of the world, including parts of Europe, and are beginning to be seen in the UK.

In more serious cases, injections or infusions of antibiotics can be given intravenously (directly into the blood or muscles). Patients with a history of allergies, such as asthma, eczema or hay fever, are at higher risk of developing a serious allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) to penicillins. Tell your healthcare professional if you are pregnant or breastfeeding so they can prescribe the most suitable antibiotic for you. Erythromycin can be used at the usual doses throughout your pregnancy and while you are breastfeeding. Dial 999 immediately and ask for an ambulance if you think that you or someone you know is experiencing anaphylaxis. It is run by a medicines safety watchdog called the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). You should also always carefully read the patient information leaflet that comes with your medicine.
This is because combining the two medications can cause a range of unpleasant and sometimes serious side effects.
In hospital, blood levels are carefully monitored to ensure that the antibiotic is only present in the blood in safe amounts. But provided you drink in moderation, alcohol is unlikely to interact significantly with your medication. There are many over-the-counter remedies to ease the symptoms, for example paracetamol.
They become antibiotic resistant, which means that the antibiotic no longer kills the bacteria. Some bacteria that cause infections in hospitals, such as MRSA, are resistant to several antibiotics. It is not possible to stop it completely, but slowing it down stops resistance spreading and buys some time to develop new types of antibiotics. Even if you take preventive measures like hand washing and getting a flu shot you’ll probably still catch a cold or flu several times each year. There are many natural remedies like nose blowing and steam inhalation you can use to relieve a stuffy nose. Never share the nasal spray applicator with another person as you may also share you cold and flu germs with them. They may also contain analgesics to relieve pain, antiseptic to kill germs and anti-irritant ingredients to relive coughing. If you consider using a throat gargle or spray containing medicine, bear in mind that they should not be used by people who have had a sore throat for longer than 7 days, or those who have a high fever, rash, severe headache or nausea and vomiting, or who have previously experienced hypersensitivity (allergic) reactions. A productive cough (a wet cough which clears mucus from the throat and lungs) is an innate immune defense and, although it may be irritating it actually helps your body clear the cold or flu viruses responsible for your symptoms. For example, it may be appropriate to use cough medicine just before bed, to settle your cough down while you get to sleep. However, unlike wet coughs, they do not assist the immune system to clear cold and flu viruses from your body. Aspirin should not be used by children under 16 years of age as it is associated with Reye’s Syndrome.
They will not make cold and flu symptoms less severe or go away faster, nor will they prevent you passing your cold or flu on to someone else.
There are two antiviral medicines available which can help treat and prevent infuenza A and B infection; oseltamivir (Tamiflu) and zanamivir (Relenza).
Treating the common cold: An expert panel consensus recommendation for primary care clinicians. Patients may need to be hospitalized to treat infections once considered simple to treat because stronger antibiotics are required or because these diseases are now associated with severe complications.
Unless they are actively causing an infection, there is no need to take antibiotics to eliminate these bacteria. If aminoglycosides are used properly in topical preparations, such as ear drops, these side effects do not occur.
By using them only when necessary, they are more likely to work when we need them in future. At times when you’re ill, managing cold and flu symptoms appropriately is important as they can reduce your productivity at home and at work, and create extra expenses for medicines and trips to the doctor or pharmacy. If these are not enough to make your stuffy nose manageable, medications are also available. Never to give nasal decongestants to children 6-11 years unless a doctor has prescribed them.
However, they can irritate the nose and if that occurs, congestion might become worse instead of better. Note that vaporubs contain strong chemicals which can be dangerous if swallowed by a baby, so you should never apply vaporub to your baby’s chest. An expectorant cough medicine (a cough medicine which loosens the mucus in your respiratory system) may be used if you need something extra to settle a wet cough. If you have a dry cough that is interfering with your lifestyle, you can treat it using a cough suppressant (but don’t use a cough medicine which contains codeine, as codeine-containing medications are addictive). You should also consult your doctor if your cough gets worse, you start wheezing, or you feel short of breath.
However, antivirals are not always necessary; they are usually prescribed to people with a high risk of developing influenza complications like pneumonia.
You can also visit your local pharmacist for advice and medicines such as paracetamol and cough mixture.
One way this happens is genetic mutations, which are random changes in genetic material that can be passed on from one virus or bacterium to successive generations. Using antimicrobials unnecessarily increases resistance by eliminating sensitive bacteria and giving resistant and perhaps more virulent bacteria a chance to increase in number.
If the cold lasts more than three weeks, or you become breathless or have chest pains, or if you already have a chest complaint, see your GP. When applying to the chest of an adult or child, it is important to avoid putting the vaporub on irritated skin and the skin surrounding the eyes. But bear in mind that simply drinking eight cups of water per day plenty of water will have the same effect in relieving coughs. These medicines are also called anti-tussives and the best evidence is for anti-tussive cough medicines containing dextromethorphan. This bacterium would survive the treatment and breed, passing on the antibiotic - resistant gene to its offspring. Some bacteria have developed an enzyme or protein that changes the structure of penicillin and prevents it from killing bacteria. The more you use an antibiotic the greater the opportunity bacteria has to adapt and become resistant to the antibiotic enabling it to continue growing, spreading and causing serious infections. Unfortunately, developing a new bacteria fighting antibiotic isn’t as easy as it sounds. We must therefore preserve the life saving antibiotics we currently have for now and for future generations.
We are already seeing an increase in resistant bacteria such as the hospital infection MRSA which is resistant to a number of different antibiotics making it very difficult to treat. Doctors are qualified and trained to assess your condition and decide if you need antibiotics.
Advice currently given to Doctors is antibiotics should only be given for more serious infections.
Help stop the spread of infections such as stomach bugs by washing your hands thoroughly with liquid soap and warm water.

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