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Are you taking too many antibiotics?

various pills and bottles of different colours and shapes with syringe and stethoscope

One of the greatest threats we face globally is the growing resistance to existing antibiotics. Each November, World Antibiotic Awareness Week (WAAW) aims to raise awareness about the need for correct and cautious use of antibiotics to help control the increase in resistant bacteria and hard-to-treat infections.

Here are EIGHT things you need to know to be Antibiotic Wise:

Hand with glove holding a petri dish with e coli.
  1. Antibiotics only work to kill bacterial infections. Colds and flu are caused by viruses so no amount of antibiotics will help.

  2. Over the past 30 years, NO major new antibiotics have been developed.


  3. Overuse and misuse of antibiotics is more common in Canada than in other OECD countries. Canadian clinicians prescribe 33% more antibiotics than clinicians in countries like the Netherlands, Sweden and Germany.

  4. Respiratory infections account for the greatest amount of overuse, in Canada and abroad, even though antibiotics don’t work for common colds and related symptoms.

  5. Never share prescription medicine. If someone else at home or work develops the same infection, this often indicates a viral infection.

  6. One in four urinary tract infections are caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria and can’t be treated by antibiotics which were effective just 10 years ago.

  7. It’s the bacteria that are resistant, not you! Even very healthy people who have never taken antibiotics can become infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

  8. Twice as many patients die from infections caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria than those caused by non-resistant bacteria.
Cartoon graphic of bacteria stomping on an antibiotics.
What can you do to help prevent antibiotic-resistance?

1. Ask your doctor questions. Do I have a bacterial infection or a viral infection?
2. Let your doctor know what antibiotics you have used before.
3. The best way to prevent infection is frequent hand washing with plain soap and water.
4. If you are prescribed antibiotics, take as directed.

Take this quiz and see how Antibiotic Wise you are.


Facts taken from the National Collaborating Centre for Infectious Diseases, World Health Organization, and the BC Centre for Disease Control websites.

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