You're not imagining it, doctors aren't giving out antibiotics much anymore. Here's why.


Feeling frustrated with your GP?

There’s a general level of distaste for GPs and their newfound reluctance to hand out antibiotics prescriptions this year; Mamamia‘s readers have vented in our submissions inbox about the matter, pleading with us to answer ‘WHY WON’T MY GP GIVE ME MEDICATION ANYMORE?’.

We get it – there’s nothing worse than heading to the doctor’s office, only to be sent back home with an instruction to ‘get some rest’ and ‘wait it out’ (with a slightly poorer bank balance to boot).

So answer we shall.

Firstly, if you feel this frustration, the good news is you’re not alone. The bad news is it isn’t going to change.

We caught up with Dr Dasha Fielder of Sapphire Family Medical Practice in Bondi Junction get to the bottom of why doctors are more cautious before handing out antibiotics.

“Antibiotics are really only requiring very, very rarely,” Dr Fielder told Mamamia.

“Ninety-nine per cent of infections that people are calling ‘the flu’ or ‘a cold’ or ‘a chest infection’, are actually viral, which antibiotics have no place in treatment for.”

Yep. You might feel horrid. You might be bed-ridden and have phlegm coming out the wazoo. But the overwhelming likelihood is that you have a viral infection; one that cannot be treated with anything but waiting it out.

Even bronchitis doesn’t require antibiotic medication.

Still, Dr Fielder understands why people feel annoyed when they don’t get a magic solution to relieve them of their symptoms.

“When patients feel sick, they expect that we will give them something to make them feel better,” Dr Fielder told Mamamia. “But a viral infection is not going to last one, two, or three days, but one or two weeks.”


What often happens is people wait seven days, go to another doctor, and are wrongly handed antibiotics. Unfortunately, when their symptoms clear in the next seven days, they wrongly attribute this to the medication, and believe the tablets solved their ailments, when really it was just the viral infection coming to its natural conclusion.

The problem with our inclination to pop antibiotics inappropriately? We’re only making ourselves resistant to those drugs; meaning they could be useless to us when we actually need them, and have a more serious infection like pneumonia.

Image: Getty.

The cruel reality of this: 99 per cent of the time, you have a viral infection. Antibiotic medications treat bacterial infections only. If you've had antibiotics this year for a respiratory tract infection, the chances are you probably didn't need to.

"If we use antibiotics inappropriately in the community, the eventually we will not have any drugs to treat patients when they actually need it.

"Often I get told, 'I have green snot', but the colour of your mucus does not indicate if it's a bacterial infection either, often they are still viral," Dr Fielder says.

So - what can you do if you're feeling shocking with a viral infection?

Head to the GP, grab a medical certificate for time off work, and invest in things like nasal sprays and cold and flu tablets. If you're still convinced you need antibiotics, you can often request a nasal swab, which will reveal within one to two days whether or not you're suffering from a viral or bacterial infection.

To avoid being in these situations altogether, practice terrific hand hygiene and make sure to get your annual influenza vaccination. A good GP will make you feel empowered regardless of if you walk away with a prescription script or not.

Hate it as much as you like, but the fact we're all struggling to get our hands on antibiotics is an overwhelmingly good thing, Dr Fielder says.

"It's a great thing that people are noticing this, because it means doctors are finally following the therapeutic guidelines."

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