Aquarius Population Health

Part 2: What, if anything, can we do as individuals to help combat AMR?

In the second part of this article, we explore what we can do to combat AMR.

Don’t get ill.

That might sound ridiculous, since no one wants to get ill. However as individuals, we can  reduce our risk of picking up an infection and reduce our need for antimicrobials. One of the simplest, but probably the most difficult, is to eat a healthy diet and stay physically active. At the Aquarius office, we have a communal fruit bowl to encourage us to eat healthier snacks. We compete in a weekly fitness challenge to see who walks the most steps, encouraging us all to be more active.

Good hand hygiene is one of the most straightforward and effective ways of preventing infection, particularly washing before meals. NICE recommends teaching all children simple hygiene measures to prevent the spread of infection. They also recommend the use of liquid soap instead of bars of soap – so if you’re still using bars, it’s time to swap!

The annual influenza (‘flu) vaccine is a cheap and effective way to prevent flu. Many local pharmacies offer a walk-in vaccination service which takes less than 10 minutes. If you are not in one of the groups eligible for the vaccination free on the NHS, the vaccine costs about £10. Some larger supermarkets offer the vaccine for as little as £5 – less than the cost of an NHS prescription. Most school children in reception to year 3 are offered the nasal spray flu vaccine at school. If they miss their school visit or if they’re in nursery, then they’ll need to visit their GP to have the vaccine. Even dogs can even be vaccinated against the flu! Beyond the flu vaccine, it’s important that all children are up-to-date with their routine immunisation schedule.

Use antibiotics wisely.

When we do get ill, it’s important not to expect antibiotics to be prescribed for all infections. GPs account for 80% of antibiotic prescribing the UK. In the past few years, GPs have been encouraged to reduce antibiotic prescribing since many of the prescriptions given were deemed unnecessary. Infections such the common cold are caused by viruses, which do not respond to antibiotics. Taking a course of antibiotics will have no impact, but still put pressure on the pathogens developing resistance.

Monitoring of antibiotic prescribing at a GP practice level showed a 7.3% fall in antibiotic prescribing between 2014/15 and 2015/16. A similar drive to reduce non-essential antibiotic use in farmed animals has also been successful at reducing antibiotic use.

If antibiotics are needed, then it’s vital to follow the instructions on how and when they should be taken and to complete the course, even if you feel better. If remembering to take them is problematic, drug adherence apps can help. Never buy antibiotics online since many of these websites are unregistered and are illegally selling antibiotics that may not work and  could contain harmful substances.

Increasing awareness.

Finally, spread the knowledge, talk to friends, tweet, chat, and keep up-to-date on developments in this area. Good antimicrobial stewardship is everyone’s responsibility.

Read part 3 of our article to find out how new technology such as rapid tests can help fight the war against AMR. Return to Antimicrobial Resistance: Why it matters Part 1.

Dr. Susie Huntington