PATIENTS in South Lakeland suffering with flu or colds are being warned not to expect antibiotics from their doctors this winter and not to put pressure on them to prescribe.

NHS Cumbria say antibiotics will not cure colds or flu and prescribing them can damage the body's ability to fight more serious infections.

Patients in South Lakeland accounted for over 70,000 courses of prescribed antibiotics last year - the second highest rate in Cumbria.

Doctors prescribed 74,553 in total, along with 66,551 in Furness and 32,357 in Eden.

Dr Nigel Calvert, NHS Cumbria's Associate Director of Public Health said: "The more people use antibiotics when they don't need them, the more danger there is that in the future when they do really need them for a serious infection such as pneumonia or meningitis, they may not work. This is very important.

"Often patients seem to think that antibiotics are the golden cure to any illness and repeatedly ask for them, however there is a price for us all to pay if people keep on using them in the current quantities in which they are asked for and prescribed.

"There's real worries that the more people use antibiotics the more likely that new superbug style infections will develop which are resistant to antibiotics and therefore will be extremely difficult to treat. This is a real danger.

"I'd ask all patients to make sure they don't put health professionals under pressure to provide antibiotics and if they are prescribed them it’s important that the course is finished completely and that people don't stop taking a prescription just because they feel better."

NHS Cumbria say there is a danger antibiotics are losing their effectiveness faster than ever before.

They say that in recent years, the bugs have developed the ability to change and adapt, making some antibiotic resistant.

Scientists and doctors are calling for urgent action and warning that if people continue to "misuse" antibiotics and if new ones are not developed in the next decade, a more widespread antibiotic-resistant bacteria could form.

Antibiotics are used to fight serious bacterial infections like pneumonia, TB (tuberculosis), meningitis and blood poisoning, which can kill if not treated.

NHS Cumbria say antibiotics are used for too many minor conditions or if people prescribed antibiotics don't finish the course, then this will aid the ability of bacteria to fight against antibiotics.

If resistance to antibiotics continues to increase at its current rate there are worries that bacterial pneumonia could again mean a death sentence for some people, as it often did until just after the Second World War.

All colds and most coughs and sore throats are caused by viruses. Antibiotics do not work against infections caused by viruses.

In Cumbria last year, more than 373,640 courses of antibiotics were prescribed compared with 375,000 in 2009/10 and 397,178 in 2010/11.

In 2009 the World Health Organisation (WHO) stated that: “Antibiotic resistance is one of the three greatest threats to human health”.