Not to be sneezed at - HSE's website to fight colds and flus has 120,000 visits
A HSE website which gives advice on how to handle common illnesses without antibiotics has had 120,000 visits in less than six months.
The site, which was launched last November, originally had a target of 40,000 visits for its first year in existence, but has already had almost three times that amount in less than half a year.
Dr Philip Crowley, the HSE national director for quality improvement said that the www.undertheweather.ie website was developed by the HSE, in partnership with pharmacists and GPs, and gives advice and information on dealing with many common illnesses like colds, flu, earaches, sore throats, stomach bugs and rashes.
"Research has shown that a lot of people still believe that antibiotics can help to treat common illnesses like colds, flu, earaches, tummy bugs and rashes," Dr Crowley said.
"We know in fact that antibiotics are useless against most of these infections, which are caused by viruses, and antibiotics don't work on viruses.
"Learning how to manage common illnesses with confidence and common sense is a great life skill and improves our understanding of when we need antibiotics and when we don't.
"It's something that we learn from our parents, friends, doctors, from our own experience and more and more from the internet," he said.
Dr Crowley said that the website has been developed in response to this, to support the public in accessing trusted and reliable health information.
He said that the campaign is about ensuring that we only use antibiotics when we really need them.
"Using antibiotics when they're not necessary can cause harmful side effects and is a waste of money, but the biggest risk is that it creates stronger, more resistant infections that can make us very ill," he said in the Health Protection Surveillance (HPSC) newsletter.
The website offers information on how long common illnesses should last, what to expect, and what people can do to cope with, and recover from, these illnesses.
It also offers videos from leading GPs who talk about a range of common illnesses affecting babies, children and adults.
Experts have repeatedly warned that antibiotics are losing their effectiveness at an increasing rate, and this is driven by overusing them.
Research has shown that at least one in three of us expect an antibiotic prescription from our doctor.