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Westmeath is among the worst counties for overuse of antibiotics

Posted by Eamonn Brady on

The HSE revealed earlier this year that Westmeath is among the worst three counties in Ireland for overuse of antibiotics. Pharmacist Eamonn Brady from Whelehans Pharmacy Mullingar explains that “antibiotics do not work for colds and flus and should be reserved for more serious infections”. Eamonn explains that “Antibiotic resistance still remains a major European and global public health problem and is, for a large part, caused by misuse of antibiotics. Antibiotic resistance is considered to be one of the biggest future threats to world health; already diseases which were considered curable such as tuberculosis and malaria are getting resistant to antibiotics and could become incurable in the future if we don’t tackle antibiotic overuse”.


One in four people still think an antibiotic cures a cold


Eamonn explains that a “2013 HSE survey revealed some worrying findings. It was revealed that one in four people in Ireland still wrongly believe that antibiotics prevent colds developing into more serious illness or that they speed up the recovery from colds. The HSE explain “Antibiotics have truly transformed modern medicine and are appropriately used to treat or prevent bacterial infections. However, we are all in danger of taking antibiotics for granted and we all have a role to play so that we don't return to the pre-antibiotic era. Before antibiotics were available, common injuries such as cuts and scratches that became infected sometimes resulted in death or serious illness because there was no treatment available. Thankfully, this does not happen anymore as we have antibiotics available to treat these infections. However a casual attitude to antibiotics is damaging their effectiveness”.


Under the weather?


European Antibiotic Awareness Day is an annual event to raise awareness on how to use antibiotics in a responsible way that will keep them effective now and in the future. To mark the occasion, Pharmacists are collaborating with GP’s and the HSE on a public campaign; this campaign is being launched today, Wednesday 18 November. The campaign is being supported by the HSE website and is being promoted as the place to go for sensible, practical advice on common complaints. Most young mothers, when discovering their child is ill, search online for advice. This website will give practical advice on what to do and when to seek help from the pharmacist or GP.


What to do if you have cold or flu


Pharmacist Eamonn Brady explains that “antibiotics are now becoming ineffective to many infections leading to the development of superbugs such as MRSA. Infections such as tuberculosis are now re-emerging because the bacteria are developing resistance because of our overuse of antibiotics. The best way to prevent this problem is for all of us to only use antibiotics when we really need them. Many infections are viral so an antibiotic should not be prescribed. Your GP or pharmacist can explain which infections need and which don’t need antibiotics” Pharmacists give the following advice if you have a cold or flu, “Stay at home and rest if necessary. Drink plenty of water or soft drinks. Take paracetamol to reduce your temperature if feverish or if you are in any discomfort. You may wish to take other remedies, but be aware that they may contain paracetamol - do not exceed the maximum daily dose of paracetamol by combining different products - ask your pharmacist. Ask your pharmacist about other remedies you can safely take to relieve your symptoms. If you are concerned that your symptoms are getting worse or you are not better in a few days, phone your GP surgery for further advice. Finally, personal hygiene precautions such as hand washing regularly prevent the risk of infections spreading and will protect you and others.”



Eamonn Brady is a pharmacist and the owner of Whelehans Pharmacy, Pearse St, Mullingar. If you have any health questions e-mail them to



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