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Thursday, October 8, 1998 Published at 02:43 GMT 03:43 UK


'No quick fix' for 'flu

Patients should treat the symptoms of 'flu

Antibiotics do not work on colds and 'flu
More than one in four people still demands antibiotics for colds and 'flu, a survey has found.

The research - based on interviews with 2,054 adults and commissioned by the Consumer Health Information Centre - indicates that the public has yet to take on board advice that antibiotics are useless for viral infections.

BBC Consumer Affairs Correspondent Nicola Carslaw on an appeal to let illness run its course
The Department of Health also warned that GPs should not prescribe antibiotics for colds and 'flu, and that the overuse of such drugs had increased the risk that bacteria would develop resistance, raising the spectre of untreatable "superbugs".

Despite the government warning, more than half of those who wanted antibiotics said they believed the drugs would help them recover faster.

Social differences

People in social group A/B were more likely to ask for antibiotics when they have a bad cold than those in groups C2 and D/E.

The highest demand for antibiotics is from people in Greater London.

The survey suggested that many younger people were impatient for a cure because they felt under pressure to return to work as quickly as possible.

[ image: Professionals are more likely to reach for antiobiotics]
Professionals are more likely to reach for antiobiotics
GP Dr Catti Moss, spokesperson for the CHIC, said: "We all need to accept the fact that, until a cure for the common cold is found, there is no quick fix.

"The only way to deal with these viruses is to relieve the symptoms with a remedy from the pharmacy and let the virus run its course."

The CHIC survey also found that people do not lack the confidence to self-medicate, but they need reassurance.

A British Medical Association spokeswoman said: "This shows there is still a big hill to climb, and explains the pressure GPs are under.

[ image: Alternative medicines are increasingly popular]
Alternative medicines are increasingly popular
"There is still an enormous task in hand to explain sympathetically to patients firstly that antibiotics will not be effective against viral infections and secondly that most minor infections will get better on their own."

The CHIC is starting a campaign to steer consumers towards the pharmacy to gain on-the-spot expert advice.

The campaign will include a local call-rate helpline service staffed by trained health care professionals who can advise on symptoms and appropriate treatment. Its number is 0845 6061611.

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