Taking antibiotics when you don’t need them puts you and your family at risk.

Antibiotics are essential to treat serious bacterial infections but they are frequently being used to treat illnesses, such as coughs, earache and sore throats that can get better by themselves.

Taking antibiotics encourages harmful bacteria that live inside you to become resistant. That means that antibiotics may not work when you really need them.

As antibiotic resistance increases common procedures such as caesarean sections and hip replacements could become life-threatening without antibiotics to ward off infections. Cancer patients are also much more vulnerable if antibiotics don’t work; both cancer and the treatment (chemotherapy) reduce the ability of the immune system to fight infections and antibiotics are critical to both prevent and treat infections in these patients.

The Keep Antibiotics Working campaign is urging everyone to remember that taking antibiotics when you don’t need them puts you and your family at risk. It’s important that, when it comes to antibiotics, you always take your doctor, nurse or healthcare professional’s advice.

Antibiotic Amnesty

Our annual Antibiotic Amnesty campaign aims to combat the rise of antibiotic resistance by reducing the number of antibiotics being used unnecessarily and unsafely.

This November, you can play your part in protecting antibiotics for the future by returning any unused or old antibiotics to any local pharmacy. 

Find your nearest pharmacy on the NHS website.

You should only take antibiotics when they have been prescribed for you by a healthcare professional. Unless your doctor or nurse has specifically told you to you should never save antibiotics for later, and never give them to someone else.

In addition to returning any old or unused antibiotics to your nearest pharmacy, you can also support the amnesty by helping to spread the message.

Visit our campaigns and toolkits page to find resources and suggested social media posts that you can use. Alternatively, please follow us on TwitterFacebook and Instagram and share our posts. 

Find information about 2022's Antibiotic Amnesty on our news page.

Learn more about antibiotic awareness

If you or a family member are feeling unwell, have a cold or flu and you haven’t been prescribed antibiotics, you can use self-care to help you feel better.

  • Ask your pharmacist to recommend medicines to help with symptoms or pain
  • Get plenty of rest
  • Make sure you or your child drink enough to avoid feeling thirsty
  • Fever is a sign the body is fighting the infection and usually gets better by itself in most cases. You can use paracetamol if you or your child are uncomfortable as a result of a fever
  • Make sure to use a tissue for your nose and wash your hands frequently to avoid spreading your infection to family and friends.

Antibiotics don't work for everything