To help the GP decide if a patient has a bacterial or viral infection and if antibiotics are needed, a quick and simple blood test is done.
The test involves taking a small dot of blood from the fingertip and analysing it in a machine. The results are available in 5 minutes and help to decide the best course of action for the patient.
Each year 25% of the population visit their GP for a respiratory tract infection (eg sinus, throat or chest infection). These are usually caused by viruses.
For patients who are otherwise healthy, antibiotics are not necessary for viral infections. Antibiotics only work for infections caused by bacteria.
These infections will normally clear up by looking after yourself at home with rest, plenty of fluids and paracetamol.
Ear infections typically last 4 days:
89% of cases clear up on their own
A sore throat typically lasts 7 days:
40% of cases clear up after 3 days and 90% after 7 days without antibiotics
Sinusitis typically lasts 17 days:
80% clear up in 14 days without antibiotics
Cough/bronchitis typically lasts 21 days:
Antibiotics reduce symptoms by only 1 day
More information about antibiotics can be found on the NHS Direct Wales Website.
Taking unnecessary antibiotics for viral infections should be avoided because they may not be effective next time you have a bacterial infection. Antibiotics have been overused in the past and this is now causing major problems all over the world with people becoming resistant.