How much do you really understand about antibiotics?


Tanya Plibersek


Photo: Getty images

It seems that each week there is new health information in the media that raises questions for parents about what’s best to do for the health of their children.

This week is Antibiotic Awareness week and new research just released shows that  more than 2 in 3 Australians know bacteria are becoming resistant to antibiotics — but many don’t know what to do about it.

Antibiotics provided some of the health miracles of the 20th Century, but now as overuse and misuse threatens their effectiveness and we risk a new wave of death and disease from drug-resistant bacteria.

The research revealed that many people aren’t aware that taking antibiotics incorrectly or inappropriately accelerates the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria throughout the community.


There is a lot of work underway to improve antibiotic use in our hospitals and community health settings - key battlegrounds in the fight against drug-resistant bacteria, but there are simple things that parents can do.

When it comes to colds, flu and most ear, nose, throat and chest infections, the best medicine is rest, home remedies and lots of love.

We need to remember that antibiotics won’t treat the symptoms of a virus or stop it from getting worse.

Giving your child antibiotics when they don’t need them may do nothing but increase their risk of developing antibiotic resistance making it harder to kill bacteria in the long term

When antibiotics are needed and prescribed, parents must be vigilant to ensure that they are taken correctly.

Most parents don’t realise that not completing the full course of antibiotics increases bacterial resistance in the community and may also mean the medicines don’t work for them in future.

When used appropriately and correctly to kill bacteria, antibiotics can be lifesaving. But if we don’t change the way we use these medicines now, we risk returning to an era where an infection from something as a simple as a scratch could cause serious complications, or even death.

During Antibiotic Awareness Week, we are urging everyone to take simple steps to reduce the spread of superbugs and preserve the miracle of antibiotics for future generations.

1. Know that antibiotics are only effective in the treatment of bacteria and not viruses, like colds and flu.

2. When you need antibiotics, take them exactly as prescribed – take the right amount, at the right times and complete the full course.   If you find it hard to remember when to take your medicines, download the NPS MedicineWise Antibiotics Reminder app for iPhone.

3. Spread knowledge, not infections. Always practice good hygiene, talk to your health professional about antibiotic resistance, and encourage those around you to be antibiotic resistance fighters too.

Simple steps that will help us preserve the power of antibiotics for the health of our children’s generation.