A study has found that GPs can wrongly believe they are under pressure from their patients to prescribe antibiotics – even though the patient would be happy just to get something to ease their symptoms.
Dr Laura Noonan of the expert group the Respiratory Tract Treatment Forum, said her research suggests the majority of patients are more concerned with symptom relief than antibiotics and do not feel the doctor is dismissive of their symptoms if they leave without a prescription.
And those who understand the role of antibiotics are less likely to come to their GP and will try an over-the-counter treatment first.
However, there is still a perception by some GPs that they must give their patients antibiotics for the sick person to feel they have got value.
Dr Noonan was speaking on European Antibiotic Awareness Day, amid warnings by HSE microbiologist Dr Fidelma Fitzpatrick that taking antibiotics when they aren't needed means that they might not work for a serious infection.
The casual attitude to antibiotics is damaging their effectiveness and we are seeing an alarming global rise in so-called 'superbugs'.
These include drug-resistant bacteria that causes pneumonia and meningitis, MRSA and E.coli.
* Antibiotics don't work for colds or flu. If you have a cold or flu, read the patient information leaflet for advice on how to help yourself get better.
* Antibiotics should be taken exactly as prescribed – at the right time and for the right duration.
* Always finish an antibiotic course – even if you feel a lot better. This is to ensure that all the bacteria are killed completely and that none are left that could multiply and develop resistance.
Dr Seamus Cryan, of the Irish College of General Practitioners, advised: "Antibiotics are not effective for the treatment of viruses such as head cold, flu, and chicken pox. They will not reduce a fever. They will not relieve a cough. They will not relieve pain."