Today marks the beginning of World Antibiotic Awareness Week, with European Antibiotic Awareness Day on Saturday 18 November.

NHS Borders is supporting the Healthcare Improvement Scotland awareness campaign as the spread of antibiotic resistance, in other words the ability of bacteria to resist the action of an antibiotic, continues to be a recognised global problem. Antibiotic resistance severely limits the options available for treatment of infectious diseases.

This year we are focusing on letting the public know what they can do to make sure they are using antibiotics responsibly.

Andy Duncan, Consultant Paediatrician with NHS Borders, said: "We all want what's best for our children, especially when they're unwell. But when they are poorly with sleepless nights, exhausting days, loss of appetite and aches and pains, it can be difficult to know how best to treat them. We see many babies and children with these problems and our GPs will see many more - especially in the winter time - we are all indoors more and germs pass very freely amongst young children in particular.

"This week is World Antibiotic Awareness Week so it's worth remembering that common colds, the vast majority of coughs, earache and sore throats are due to common viruses which your body will work hard to fight off without the need for antibiotics which don't work on viruses anyway. We now know that most coughs and colds get better by themselves, so only take antibiotics if you are asked to and make sure you only take them as prescribed."

Dr Ed James, NHS Borders Consultant Microbiologist, said: "Antibiotics are important medicines used to treat infections caused by bacteria. Bacteria can adapt and find ways to survive the effects of an antibiotic. The bacteria become 'antibiotic resistant' so that the antibiotic no longer works.

"The more often we use an antibiotic, the more likely it is that bacteria will become resistant to it. Some bacteria that cause infections in hospitals, such as MRSA, are resistant to several antibiotics.

"We have the opportunity to slow down antibiotic resistance by taking antibiotics responsibly. Slowing down the rate of antibiotic resistance will buy us some time to develop new types of antibiotics to use on life threatening infections such as meningitis.

"To show your commitment to slowing down antibiotic resistance, you can become an antibiotic guardian. You will be asked to pledge how you'll make better use of antibiotics now to safeguard antibiotics for future generations."

For more information on how you can make a pledge visit www.antibioticguardian.com.