Antibiotics are essential to treat serious bacterial infections, such as meningitis, pneumonia and sepsis, but they are frequently being used to treat illnesses, such as coughs, earache and sore throats that can get better by themselves.
To help parents understand more about the most common infections, how they can be treated and if they need antibiotics, Musgrove Park Hospital has developed the Handi app in 2015 (which is free to download from the App Store and Google Play).
It’s aimed at parents, but it also gives advice to health professionals on a range of conditions, from diarrhoea and vomiting, to chestiness and newborn problems.
After selecting one of the conditions, the app takes you through a series of questions to understand your symptoms. The app either gives self-care advice or recommends seeing a GP or other healthcare professional if appropriate.
It has been adopted by eight healthcare trusts in the region, with another three lined up and has been used more than 64,000 times.
Joanne Clarke, Sirona’s Medicines Optimisation Pharmacist, said: “This app is a great tool for parents to use when their children are unwell. Sirona supports the use of this app to provide parents with practical information about what to do if their child is unwell. Antibiotics are ineffective for viral infections and as a community we need to be ensuring they are only used when necessary.”
Sarah Bridges, and Amy Whiting, consultant paediatricians at Musgrove developed the app to empower parents to provide information about common childhood illnesses in an easily accessible form.
Sarah said: “We know taking antibiotics encourages harmful bacteria that live inside you to become resistant. That means that antibiotics may not work when you really need them.
“It is estimated that at least 5,000 deaths are caused every year in England because antibiotics no longer work for some infections and this figure is set to rise with experts predicting that in just over 30 years antibiotic resistance will kill more people than cancer and diabetes combined.
“The Handi Paediatric app provides self-care advice to help families manage their children’s symptoms.
“We know it can be a difficult decision for parents whether or not to take their children to A&E, and unfortunately they often end up there as they aren’t sure what else to do.
“We hope the HANDi paediatric app gives them more confidence in dealing with the more minor conditions themselves at home.”
“Families are also able to see the GP and hospital guidelines for more particular symptoms.”
Parents should always trust their doctor, nurse or pharmacist’s advice as to when they need antibiotics and if they are prescribed, take antibiotics as directed and never save them for later use or share them with others.
Chaam Klinger, Consultant for Public Health England said:
“As a parent, I know how difficult it is when a child is ill and you will pretty much do anything to try and help them. It can be very tempting to go to the GP and ask for antibiotics. However, I would urge parents to think twice as the long term consequences of using antibiotics for viral infections such as colds, sore throats and ear infections could be devastating.
“We want to make sure that we all help keep antibiotics working for serious infections such as sepsis, meningitis and pneumonia.
“There are some great resources in the region for parents to use to help understand a bit more about when antibiotics should be used. We are not asking parents to stop taking children to the GP for expert advice but we want to ask them to trust the GPs advice as home care and over the counter remedies may be the right treatment.
“Pharmacists, NHS choices website and 111 are also other great places to look up common aliments.”