Green phlegm and snot don't always require antibiotics, UK doctors say

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Bottles of prescription pills go through an automated packaging machine December 2, 2010 in Willingboro, New Jersey.

Credit:

Stan Honda

At the first sight of green phlegm and snot, many people start popping antibiotics.

But doctors in the United Kingdom said Monday that these symptoms were often caused by viruses, not bacterial infections, and did not require antibiotics.

They urged people with runny noses, sore throats and coughs to use natural remedies or over-the-counter medicines to manage the symptoms, rather than resort to antibiotics — the increased use of which is reducing the drugs' effectiveness.

"The problems of antibiotic resistance are growing. Everyone can help by not using antibiotics for the treatment of uncomplicated infections," Dr Cliodna McNulty of Public Health England, the executive agency of the Department of Health, was quoted as saying.

"Any antibiotics we take will also kill many of our normal bacterial flora in the gut. Antibiotics also encourage other bacteria in our gut to develop resistance to antibiotics by changing their genetic make-up.

"These resistant bacteria can then in turn pass their resistance genes on to other bacteria, or they can be passed to other people we have close contact with. In the long run, this will mean our antibiotics become less effective, or in the worse case scenario, not effective at all."

The advice was issued on European Antibiotics Awareness Day, which aims to draw attention to the dangers of excessive use of antibiotics.