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What can I do?

Everyone can take responsibility and contribute in the fight against antibiotic resistance. In this section, we have listed some of the actions that you can take as an individual to avoid unnecessary antibiotic use and prevent spread of resistant bacteria. To learn more, have a look at the suggested resources.

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Use antibiotics wisely

How?

  • See a health care professional for diagnosis and do not demand antibiotics, instead ask if other possible ways for relief are available.
  • Do not self-medicate with antibiotics or use leftover medicines from a previous illness.
  • Follow treatment directions if you are prescribed a course of antibiotics.

Why?

Antibiotic use accelerates development and spread of resistant bacteria. Furthermore, taking antibiotics is associated with risks, including side effects such as diarrhea, allergic reactions and colonization of resistant bacteria in the body. Therefore, antibiotics should be used only when needed.

Many infections, such as the common cold or the flu, are caused by viruses and can not be treated by antibiotics. Also, some bacterial infections can be taken care of by your immune system and do not require antibiotics. Since different antibiotics are used for different bacterial infections, the choice of therapy is complicated and requires medical training. Old medicines can have lower activity and fail to work.

Alt text Antibiotics don’t work against colds and the flu (campaign for European antibiotic awareness day, ECDC).

Stay healthy

How?

  • Wash your hands and insist that others wash their hands too.
  • Get vaccinated and make sure other family members are vaccinated. There are many extensively used and safe vaccines that protect against viral and bacterial diseases such as polio and whooping cough. Some vaccines have to be taken at regular intervals to remain protective, make sure to inform yourself about your vaccine protection.
  • Prepare and cook food properly: wash your hands before, during and after handling food, cook meat to recommended temperatures and keep raw meat separated from vegetables and eating utensils. Take measures to ensure that the water you use is of good quality.
  • Avoid spreading disease: stay at home and rest when contagious.

Why?

The best way to avoid having to use antibiotics is to limit the risk of getting an infection in the first place!

Proper hand hygiene can prevent the spread of microorganisms and infectious diseases. Vaccines prepare your own immune system so that it can ward off attacks by specific microorganisms and protect against infections. Apart from protecting the vaccinated person, widespread vaccinations also reduce the occurrence of infections in society. Raw and improperly cooked food can contain microorganisms that may cause disease. Limiting the spread of diseases by using vaccines, proper hygiene and staying at home when you are contagious will result in fewer antibiotic prescriptions in the community.

Raise awareness

How?

  • Learn more about bacteria and antibiotic resistance
  • Teach others about bacteria and antibiotic resistance, and inform them about possible actions to limit the problem
  • Become an antibiotic resistance champion: help raising awareness in your community, initiate your own activities and be an example for others.

Why?

To tackle the problem of antibiotic resistance, people need to change behaviors at all levels of society. Knowledge is needed on why it is important to take action for your own well-being as well as for the good of society.

By raising awareness, more people can be inspired to take action, which increases our chances to succeed in limiting the emergence and spread of resistant bacteria to preserve the cure for future generations.

Join the fight and take a pledge

In support of last year’s European Antibiotic Awareness Day (EAAD) and the World Antibiotic Awareness Week (WAAW), Public Health England (PHE) launched a pledge campaign called ‘Antibiotic Guardian’ where the public, healthcare professionals, students and educators can join the fight against resistance.

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Choose your pledge and become an Antibiotic Guardian here.

Find out more

Go to Downloads at the bottom of this page to access factsheets on what you can do as an individual and as a health worker, provided by WHO in conjunction with WAAW 2016.

In the See also section below, you can also access a link to ReAct’s Toolbox, which provides more information about raising awareness.

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This article is from the free online course:

Antibiotic Resistance: the Silent Tsunami

Uppsala University