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Published: 07 November 2023

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 reminds us to keep up to date with antibiotic resistance.

What is antibiotic resistance?

Every day, 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

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 respiratory symptoms, visit the HSE website for advice on common illnesses and how to help yourself get better and ask your doctor for advice if you are concerned or if symptoms persist.
  • 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.

What can you do as a healthcare specialist?

Watch: Dr Colm Henry, HSE Chief Clinical Officer, discusses the importance of Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR)

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

A lot of everyday illnesses like colds, coughs or sore throats don’t need an antibiotic. Find out how you can treat them at home and when to get help.

Find out how to treat common illnesses

More information for health professionals

Support the campaign online using #KeepAntiboticsWorking.

Related items

Read the latest edition of the RESIST newsletter

Watch the RESIST video series on YouTube

Watch: Dr Eimear Brannigan, Clinical Lead for the Antimicrobial Resistance and Infection Control team (AMRIC), discusses European Antibiotic Awareness Day 2023 on YouTube

Watch: 'Taking your antibiotics' on YouTube