Keep antibiotics working

Keep antibiotics working was a PHARMAC campaign aimed at informing Kiwis that taking antibiotics won’t fix a cold or flu.


This is because colds and flu are caused by viruses, and the job of antibiotics is to treat infections caused by bacteria.

The campaign, spearheaded by social media posts and supported by resources for frontline health professionals, highlights five simple things that will help treat a cold or flu:

  • rest
  • fluids
  • pain relief
  • decongestants
  • lozenges and gargles.

The campaign also addresses earaches in young children, which is the most common reason young children get taken to the doctor.

Earaches can be caused by an infection, but taking antibiotics usually won’t help them get better any faster. But it’s always a good idea to take children to the doctor if they have an earache, to get it checked out.

Avoiding antibiotic resistance

Taking antibiotics when they’re not absolutely necessary can contribute to the growing global health threat of antibiotic resistance.

This is when bacteria become ‘used to’ particular antibiotics, so that over time those antibiotics may not work as well, or stop working altogether.

Antibiotic resistance puts lives at risk, because we need antibiotics to fight and protect against serious infections.

New Zealand doesn’t currently have the same level of drug-resistant bacteria as some overseas countries. But resistant strains are increasing here, and our antibiotic use is high compared with European countries. So it’s important we act now and do everything we can to keep antibiotics working.

See your doctor, but don’t expect antibiotics every time

This campaign is not about discouraging people from visiting the doctor.

Anyone worried about their health should seek advice from a health professional, such as a GP, nurse or pharmacist.

But we want Kiwis to know that if they’re diagnosed with a cold or flu, and there’s no sign of a serious infection, it’s unlikely they’ll be prescribed antibiotics.

Resources for health professionals

Resources for health professionals, produced by Goodfellow Unit and BPAC

Campaign resources


Here are some resources you can use to help spread the message: