Have you ever taken yourself, or one of your children, along to a doctor and then either exaggerated the presenting symptoms in order to increase the chances of being prescribed an antibiotic?
Or have you ever directly asked the doctor to prescribe an antibiotic, either subtly or not so subtly…?
I am guilty as charged, because I am human like everyone else. However I am improving now that a large part of my job is anti-microbial stewardship!
And because doctors are human as well, they often give in to such demands, because they want the patient to leave the consultation having had a positive opinion of them, even if the antibiotic itself will make no difference to the outcome or speed of resolution of infection.
This week is World Antibiotic Awareness Week, an initiative by the World Health Organisation to make people aware of the potential dangers of overuse of antibiotics. There is plenty of useful promotional material available on their website to promote this message.
However, I believe that creating a “No pressure” culture is one of the key elements of antibiotic awareness amongst the general public. This is the concept of allowing your doctor to make an objective decision as to whether an antibiotic is required. I.e. you go to your doctor, relate the symptoms to them as honestly as possible, you do not pressurise the doctor for any particular type of treatment , and accept whatever treatment choices that the doctor makes.
As most of you are aware, antibiotics are completely futile for many of the conditions that a family doctor will see each day.
An antibiotic prescription in general practice should be the exception, not the norm.
Amidst all the various components of antimicrobial stewardship, I believe the key is reducing antibiotic usage by reducing inappropriate or unnecessary antibiotic prescriptions.
This is not just the responsibility of doctors, but of patients as well.
By all means, go to your doctor, but don’t go in the expectation that you will receive an antibiotic. If you end up getting one, so be it, but don’t push for it.