Prevention of antibiotic resistance

If we all use antibiotics responsibly, we can help to prevent antibiotic resistance. Working together, Canadians and health care providers can reduce impacts on our health and health care system.

Good hygiene, like washing your hands properly, helps keep you from getting sick. That reduces the need for antibiotics. You are also helping when you and your family use antibiotics properly.

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Illness prevention tips

By avoiding illness, you can help reduce the impact of antibiotic resistance for:

  • yourself
  • your family
  • your community

Good hygiene will help stop the spread of bacteria that make you sick. Here are some tips:

  • Keep your hands clean. Wash them often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially when they are visibly dirty. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer when soap and water are not available.
  • As much as possible, keep your hands away from your:
    • eyes
    • nose
    • mouth
  • Cough or sneeze into your sleeve or a tissue instead of your hand. Then you won’t transfer bacteria to someone else when you touch them or touch shared objects such as:
    • books
    • utensils
    • doorknobs
  • If you vomit or have diarrhea, wash your hands and clean your washroom thoroughly.
  • If you are sick, stay home until you are feeling better. This helps stop the spread of bacteria and other germs.
  • Avoid handling food when you are ill.
  • Practice safer sex to avoid sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Some STIs, especially certain strains of gonorrhea, are resistant to some antibiotics

Other tips that help stop the spread of antibiotic resistance are to:

  • Make sure your vaccinations are up to date.
  • Make sure that all shared surfaces in your home are visibly clean. In most cases, plain soap and water is all you need.
  • Store, handle and prepare food safely. Clean anything that comes into contact with food to reduce the risk of food-related illness. It is especially important to wash your hands before and after handling:
    • fish
    • seafood
    • raw meat
  • Thoroughly wash all fruits and vegetables that will be eaten raw.
  • If you use well water, have it tested regularly.

Responsible use of antibiotics

Visit a health care provider if you are feeling sick. Proper diagnosis is the first step in effectively treating any illness. Not all illnesses can or should be treated with antibiotics.

If you are prescribed antibiotics, make sure to use them responsibly:

  • Take antibiotics only as directed by your health care provider. Make sure you know:
    • when to take them
    • how much to take (the right dosage)
    • how many days you should take them
  • If you are told to stop taking antibiotics by a health care provider, return unused antibiotics to a pharmacy for safe disposal.
  • Do not:
    • use leftover antibiotics
    • share your antibiotics with anyone
    • use antibiotics prescribed for someone else
  • Tell your health care provider if you experience a bad reaction or side effect.

Remember that antibiotics treat bacterial infections. They are not effective against viral infections like the common cold or the flu. Even though you may feel very unwell, antibiotics will not help you with viral infections.

Sometimes a laboratory test is needed to tell whether you have a bacterial or viral infection. Speak to a health care provider and ask questions if you are concerned.

Health care providers

Health care providers play a vital role in keeping the effectiveness of antibiotics. Prescribing antibiotics only when needed can help reduce antibiotic resistance in:

  • hospitals
  • long-term care facilities
  • homes and communities

This is equally true for community medicine, agriculture and veterinary use. ;

All health care providers who are authorized to prescribe antibiotics should make sure they follow provincial, territorial or local guidance to choose the:

  • most appropriate drug
  • correct dose
  • correct duration

Infection prevention and control references

It is important for health care providers to practice infection prevention and control in health care settings. This will help reduce the spread of both regular and resistant microbes. Routine Practices and Additional Precautions for Preventing the Transmission of Infection in Health care Settings gives guidance for health care providers.

The Help Reduce the Spread of Antimicrobial Resistance infographic highlights the key elements of routine practices.

Hand hygiene is one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of communicable diseases and infections in health care settings. Hand Hygiene Practices in Health care Settings provides a framework for developing programs, policies and procedures for hand hygiene in health care settings.

References such as Bugs & Drugs give the latest recommendations for antibiotic prescribing and the Prescribe Antibiotics Wisely fact sheet outlines key clinical points for treating older adults.

Used with provincial, territorial or local guidance, these references give information about the best treatment and prevention of infectious diseases.

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