Published: 15 November 2021

18 November is European Antibiotic Awareness Day

Antibiotics can cause more harm than good if taken unnecessarily. Take care of yourself and learn to treat common illnesses that do not require antibiotics use.

European Antibiotic Awareness Day (EAAD) is an annual event to remind everyone how valuable antibiotics are and how important it is that we only use them when we need them. EAAD also remind us to keep up to date with antibiotic resistance.

What is antibiotic resistance?

Everyday, antibiotic resistance is making people suffer more and die younger than they need to. When we use antibiotics to treat illnesses caused by bugs most of the bugs will die, but a few bugs that are a little bit different, can survive and then multiply. The surviving bugs are referred to as ‘superbugs’, they are able to block the antibiotic which makes them resistant to antibiotics. Due to an overuse of antibiotics, these resistant superbug numbers are increasing in people, in animals and the environment (water and soil). This is concerning for vulnerable groups in society, such as older people.

Antibiotics and viral infections such as COVID-19

Antibiotics can cause more harm than good; they should be used only as prescribed and when needed.

  • 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 ring your GP.
  • Antibiotics should be taken exactly as prescribed - at the right time and for the right duration.
  • Never share antibiotics or take them without a prescription.

Antibiotic Resistance -what can you do as a healthcare specialist?

Watch: Dr. Colm Henry discusses the importance of Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR)

Watch: Dr. Colm Henry, Chief Clinical Officer in the HSE discusses European Antibiotic Awareness Day 

Watch: How to take your antibiotic

What can we do to prevent the overuse of antibiotics going forward?


In many cases, the preferred antibiotic is NO antibiotic.  If you are a prescriber please ensure you are familiar with the most appropriate antibiotic to use, the correct length of time and do not use broad-spectrum antibiotics unless they are advised. If you are based in an acute hospital you may have specific prescribing guidelines for use locally.

For guidance and information for prescribers visit

Caring for yourself or your family

Information for patients on getting better without antibiotics is available on the HSE website

More information

Support the campaign online using #KeepAntiboticsWorking.

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