European Antibiotic Awareness Day Thursday 18th November 2021

Wednesday 17th November 2021

European Antibiotic Awareness Day takes place Thursday 18th November 2021

The HSE will mark European Antibiotic Awareness Day (EAAD). EAAD is an annual event to remind everyone how valuable antibiotics are, how important it is that we only use them when we need them and that efficacy of these drugs are under threat from the growing problem of antibiotic resistance.

Professor Martin Cormican, HSE National Clinical Lead for Antimicrobial Resistance and Infection Control says, “Antibiotics are like magic arrows that hit the bacteria where it hurts but are usually very safe for us. However over the last 100 years or so people have used a lot of antibiotics in people and in animals. Because of all the antibiotics many bacteria have changed so that these arrows do not work as well as they used to work 20 years ago. This is the problem of antibiotic resistance. 

“Antibiotics can cause more harm than good if taken unnecessarily.  COVID-19, influenza and colds are viral infections – antibiotics don't work for virus infection, if you do need to take antibiotics always take them as prescribed by your doctor.”

Dr. Nuala O’Connor, GP and ICGP lead for Antimicrobial Resistance says, “A key message of EAAD is to only use antibiotics when they are likely to help someone who is sick get better.

“Antibiotics don’t help you to get better faster if the infection is caused by a virus such as COVID-19, colds or flu. As a GP I still get some requests for antibiotics from people who have viral infections such as colds and flus or for their children. This is a bit less common now because more people know that antibiotics are not always necessary, but it does still happen. Antibiotics will not help them get better and in fact can cause side effects like upset tummies, nausea or skin rash. It is safer for you not to take an antibiotic you don’t need because antibiotics like all medicines can have side effects.”

The HSE, in partnership with general practitioners and pharmacists, has a website that gives practical, common sense advice and information on dealing with many common illnesses like colds, flu, earaches, sore throats, tummy bugs and rashes. provides sound advice to give us the confidence and skill we need to take care of ourselves and our families without resorting to antibiotics.  Antibiotics can cause more harm than good; they should be used only as prescribed and when needed.

The best treatments for the most common viral infections are rest, plenty of fluids and paracetamol or ibuprofen to treat fever and pain symptoms. Both doctors and patients in the community and the hospital need to keep in mind that antibiotics are a valuable resource and should only be used when the benefit is greater than the risk.

It is still important to get checked by your GP if you are worried especially for very young children, older people and those with long-term medical conditions or whose immune system is suppressed. Your GP will be able to judge if are likely to have an infection that needs treatment with an antibiotic. If your GP says you do not need an antibiotic this is good news because antibiotics are only for when you need them.



Issued by
HSE National Press Office

Notes to editor:

  • Antibiotics don’t work for viral illnesses including COVID-19, colds or flu. If you have a cold or flu, visit for advice on how to help yourself get better and ask your doctor for advice if you are concerned. 
  • If you have symptoms of COVID-19 please stay at home, book an online test.  If you are particularly concerned ring your GP.
  • Antibiotics should be taken exactly as prescribed - at the right time for the right duration. 
  • Never share antibiotics or take them without a prescription.
Last updated on: 17 / 11 / 2021