Antibiotics are used to treat or prevent some types of bacterial infections.  They work by killing bacteria or preventing them from spreading.​

However, a lot of the time they aren’t required or appropriate.  This is because:​

  • Many mild bacterial infections can be cleared by your immune system without using antibiotics.​
  • Antibiotics aren’t effective against viral infections, such as the common cold, flu, most coughs and sore throats.​
  • Taking antibiotics always alters the normal (good) bacteria in your body.  This often results in side effects such as diarrhoea and can increase the risk of other more serious infections developing.

Taking antibiotics inappropriately increases the risk of antibiotic resistant bacteria developing. The picture below is taken from a leaflet produced by the Public Health England. It describes what antibiotic resistance is, what the consequences of antibiotic resistance are and what we can do to prevent it.

Three textboxes, each with an illustration of a pill in the top left corner. Respectively titled: 'What is antibiotic resistance?', 'A world without antibiotics' and 'Antibiotic resistance: what can I do?'.

Image source –

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