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NICE advises using honey instead of antibiotics for coughs

Thursday 23rd August 2018
Draft clinical guidance has been issued stating that antibiotics should not be provided to treat coughs unless symptoms have continued for more than three weeks.
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The National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) and Public Health England (PHE) have published new guidelines for dealing with coughs and colds, stating that sufferers should not regard antibiotics as the first port of call when they fall ill. 

It has advised those developing a cough to use honey as their first resort, or go to their pharmacist for an over-the-counter remedy. These contain pelargonium, guaifenesin or dextromethorphan, which can all help to ease the symptoms. 

Only if the problem persists for longer than three weeks - indicating it is not simply the result of bronchitis or a common cold - should people see their doctor to seek further medical help. 

NICE and PHE said clinicians should not offer antibiotics in most cases, as they will not offer any help to alleviate symptoms.  

Chair of the NICE Antimicrobial Prescribing Guideline Group Dr Tessa Lewis said: "If someone has a runny nose, sore throat and cough we would expect the cough to settle over two to three weeks and antibiotics are not needed.

"People can check their symptoms on NHS choices or NHS Direct Wales or ask their pharmacist for advice."

Healthcare-associated infection and antimicrobial resistance deputy director at Public Health England Dr Susan Hopkins commented: "Antibiotic resistance is a huge problem and we need to take action now to reduce antibiotic use."

She added that taking antibiotics unnecessarily risks building up resistance to them and this could jeopardise people's future health. 

The issue of growing antibiotic resistance is a global problem acknowledged by the World Health Organization, with no new families of antibiotics being produced since the 1980s. 

Earlier this year, it warned that diseases like pneumonia, tuberculosis, gonorrhoea, and salmonellosis are already becoming harder to treat and that the world is in danger of entering a post-antibiotic era in which common infections become killers once again.

All this means pharmacists may play a significant role in reducing antibiotic use by advising customers who seek cough remedies to persist with these unless their cough continues past the three-week period. 

The new guidance is subject to a public consultation, which ends on September 20th. 
Written by James Puckle

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