Advice no one can afford to ignore.
When your nose is running, your throat is burning and your joints are aching, you’d do just about anything to make it stop.
And if over-the-counter cold and flu meds aren’t doing the trick, most people turn to what they think will be the next best thing.
Sometimes that is going to the doctor to ask for antibiotics.
But that decision isn’t just unnecessary — it’s downright dangerous.
The World Health Organisation has warned that right now, we are facing one of the biggest threats to global health: antibiotic resistance.
So how is this incredible innovation of modern medicine turning into our downfall?
In the 80 years since they were developed, antibiotics — drugs that kill bacteria, thereby helping to fight infection — have become an essential component of healthcare.
But the more we overuse and misuse antibiotics, the more bacteria develop a resistance to them. And this is not good news.
Dr Jeannie Yoo, Clinical Adviser for NPS MedicineWise, explains: “Antibiotic resistance happens when bacteria change to protect themselves from an antibiotic. They are then no longer sensitive to that antibiotic,” she says.
“When this happens, antibiotics that previously would have killed the bacteria, or stopped them from multiplying, no longer work.”
You’ve probably heard the term “superbugs” – meaning bacteria that are resistant to several different antibiotics.
In these cases, doctors are left with limited or, in the worst case scenarios, no available treatment options.
The harmful effects of antibiotic or antimicrobial resistance have already taken hold and are increasing at a pace that is outstripping the pharmaceutical industry’s ability to develop new drugs.
Statistics show that antimicrobial-resistant infections currently claim at least 50,000 lives each year across Europe and the US. But reliable estimates of the real cost of this problem are limited.
Predictions are it’s only set to get worse.
A UK review on antimicrobial resistance in late 2014 estimated that drug-resistant infections could kill an extra 10 million people across the world every year by 2050 if steps are not taken to address the issue. By this date, they could also cost the world around $100 trillion in lost output: more than the size of the current world economy.