This site is intended for healthcare professionals only

Doctors told to prescribe honey over antibiotics

Written by: | Published:

Antibiotics do little to improve symptoms and should rarely be prescribed for coughs

Honey and over-the-counter medicines should be the first line of treatment for people with coughs instead of antibiotics, new guidelines suggest.

Antibiotics do little to improve symptoms and should rarely be prescribed for coughs, Public Health England (PHE) health officials say.

The advice is part of a growing effort to tackle the problem of antibiotic overuse - antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is making infections harder to treat and creating drug-resistant superbugs.

‘Antibiotic resistance is a huge problem, and we need to take action now to reduce antibiotic use,’ said Dr Susan Hopkins, deputy director at PHE.

New proposed guidelines from National Institute for Health and Care (NICE) and PHE say there is some evidence, although limited, that proves honey can ease cough symptoms.

‘These new guidelines will support GPs to reduce antibiotic prescriptions and we encourage patients to take their GP’s advice about self-care,’ Ms Hopkins continued.

A hot drink with honey is a well known home remedy for coughs and a sore throat.

As many as one in five GP prescriptions may be inappropriate, according to research published by PHE, and the organisation has warned that overuse of the drugs is threatening their long-term effectiveness.

Despite this, further research suggests that 48% of UK GP practices have prescribed antibiotics for a cough or bronchitis.

The NICE guidelines recommend that antibiotics may be necessary for a cough when it is part of a more serious underlying illness, or when a person is at risk of further complications, such as those with chronic health conditions or weakened immune systems.

Honey is also not recommended for children under the age of 1 because it occasionally contains bacteria that can cause infant botulism - a rare but serious gastrointestinal condition where bacteria and grow and multiply in the intestines.

‘People can check their symptoms on NHS Choices or NHS Direct Wales or ask their pharmacist for advice,’ explains Dr Tessa Lewis, GP and chair of the antimicrobial prescribing guidelines group for NICE.

‘If the cough is getting worse rather than better, or the person feels very unwell or breathless, then they would need to contact their GP.’

In most cases, acute coughs are caused by a cold or flu virus, or bronchitis, and will last for about 3 weeks.

‘Taking antibiotics when you don’t need them puts you and your family at risk of developing infections which in turn cannot be easily treated,’ adds Ms Hopkins.

A consultation on the new draft guidance will close 20 September.

What do you think? Leave a comment below or tweet your views to @IndyNurseMag

This material is protected by MA Healthcare Ltd copyright.
See Terms and Conditions.

Comments

Name
 
Email
 
Comments
 

Please view our Terms and Conditions before leaving a comment.

Change the CAPTCHA codeSpeak the CAPTCHA code
 

Most read articles from Practice Nursing Journal

Practice Nursing Journal latest issue and most read articles.

Click here to read a selection of free to access articles from Practice Nursing Journal

Newsletter

Sign up to the newsletter

About

Independent Nurse is the professional resource for primary care and community nurses, providing clinical articles for practice nurses and prescribers.

Newsletter

Subscribe to our newsletter and stay up to date with the latest nursing news.

Stay Connected

Stay social with Independent Nurse by following us on Twitter, liking us on Facebook or connecting on LinkedIn.

Archive

Need access to some of our older articles? You can view our archive, or alternatively contact us.

Contact Us

MA Healthcare Ltd.
St Jude's Church, Dulwich Road
London, SE24 0PB

Tel: +44 (0)20 7738 5454
Registered in England and Wales No. 01878373

Meet the team

Authors

Find out how to contribute to Independent Nurse here.