Some people might not think that antibiotic resistance is something to worry about, or perhaps that it won’t be a problem for them or their loved ones.
But what people tend to forget is that taking antibiotics when they do not need them – for minor illnesses, such as an ear infection or a sore throat, which can get better on their own – can put their health at risk of a more severe or longer infection in the future. It is estimated that there are 5,000 deaths a year in England because antibiotics no longer work for some infections.
I was very nearly one of these statistics.
In August 2013, I was in the garden when I was bitten by a horse fly. The bite became badly infected and only 24 hours later, I started developing flu like symptoms, including a high temperature, which continued to worsen. The infection developed into cellulitis followed by septicaemia.
Three days later I made an appointment with my GP as my hand had swollen and on seeing my arm, immediately called an ambulance and I was rushed to hospital where doctors tried administering four different types of antibiotics to fight the infection but nothing worked. During this time, my hand ballooned and the blood vessels began bursting, so I had a black and red rash that covered my hand and arm. The infection was resistant to all the routine antibiotics.
At one terrifying point, the doctors thought the only option would be to amputate my hand – or even my arm from my elbow – or put me in an induced coma. Luckily, the doctors finally found an antibiotic that worked and I began to get better. I spent a further three weeks in hospital with antibiotics given through an IV every four hours.
It was a horrific ordeal and the whole experience has taught me not only the value of antibiotics, but just how important it is to be responsible when taking them. In October 2017, Public Health England launched a new campaign called ‘Keep Antibiotics Working’, encouraging the public to take their doctor’s advice when it came to antibiotics in an effort to tackle the growing issue of antibiotic resistance.
A recent survey by Public Health England of Mumsnet users revealed that 93% of parents said they were worried about the possibility of a world in which antibiotics are no longer effective and that their biggest concern is that serious health conditions, such as meningitis, could one day become untreatable. We all have a role to play in making sure this does not happen.
That’s why I want to spread the message as much as I can, and help people understand that antibiotics are not always needed so you shouldn’t expect to be prescribed them by your doctor. Always take their advice and if antibiotics are prescribed, take them as directed and never save them for later use or share them with others.
If we continue to use antibiotics when they are not needed, then we are playing an active role in creating a future where antibiotics won’t work. Experts predict that in just over 30 years antibiotic resistance will kill more people than cancer and diabetes combined.
I was fortunate enough that doctors found an antibiotic that worked, but others in the future may not be so lucky. It’s our responsibility to ensure we preserve antibiotics for as long as possible so our children, the next generation, can use and benefit from them.
For further information on antibiotics, their uses and the risk of resistance, search ‘NHS Antibiotics’ online.