Antibiotics are the saviour of our time. Along with the contraceptive pill, they have changed our world for the better.
Illnesses that killed thousands in the 1930s are now trivial to us. Major operations can be carried out because the level of infection afterwards can be controlled. Cancer patients without functioning immune systems can be treated without dying from infection. Alexander Fleming ought to be thanked every day at school assemblies.
BUT! All good things must come to an end - unless you are Hugh Hefner. Is our love affair with (and dependency on) antibiotics about to come crashing down?
For decades doom-mongers have predicted a resistance to antibiotics from certain bacteria and indeed, here were are killing off loads of bacteria with antibiotics, leaving only the immune ones to breed. And what does that breed? That's right - a species of super-bacteria immune to death, such as MRSA. It sounds like a Hollywood blockbuster, but it might be happening in your body right now.
Sometimes you need those antibiotics. Just because bacteria are becoming immune, it doesn't mean you can't ever use them. If you have an STI, or a nasty infection that won't shift, then you need treatment. What you don't need them for is a common cold and certainly not if your doctor says you have a virus.
Hands up who has saved a few antibiotics just in case they got cystitis on holiday? Wow, a Mexican wave across the nation. Well, that was naughty, because you need to take the whole course. If you don't then the infection may re-breed and the following week you'll need another course.
You need to take a whole course of antibiotics, but if for whatever reason you have some lying around, take them to your pharmacist for disposal. Don't flush them down the loo because they end up in our water cycle. If we all take tiny amounts of antibiotic in our tea everyday then the bacteria in our environment will build a gradual immunity, not dissimilar to our gradual disinterest in the X Factor.
If you need the meds, you will get them. Don't pressurise your doctor into giving you antibiotics when other measures may help. Steam your sinuses; it's a well-known and excellent way of removing erm... bogey. Not enough people try it.
Pills are not always the answer. We need to man up a bit. See your pharmacist first for an over the counter remedy.
Illnesses are spread through human to human contact. Keep other people's body fluids away. That includes drunken sex; don't touch it unless it's covered.
Wash your hands frequently at work, and always when you arrive home. Public transport is a well known cold spreader. Don't touch your eyes, nose or mouth on the tube, train or bus and always wash your hands before eating too. This may prevent you becoming ill in the first place.
In the meantime, don't forget to thank Alexander Fleming before you go to bed - that's Alexander, not Ian.