Prevention of antibiotic resistance

Everyone has a role in helping to prevent antibiotic resistance. Canadians and healthcare professionals must work together to reduce its impacts on our health and healthcare system.

Practicing good hygiene, like washing your hands properly, helps keep you from getting sick. It also helps prevent antibiotic resistance. You are also helping when you and your family use antibiotics responsibly and properly.

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Illness prevention tips

You can help reduce the impact of antibiotic resistance for yourself, your family and your community by avoiding illness. Good hygiene will help stop the spread of bacteria that make you sick. Here are some tips.

  • Keep your hands clean. Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially when they are visibly dirty. Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer when soap and water are not available. In most cases, you do not need antibacterial soap for cleaning your hands.
  • Keep your hands away from your eyes, nose and mouth as much as possible.
  • Cough or sneeze into your sleeve or a tissue instead of your hand. This prevents transferring bacteria to someone else when you touch them or shared objects (such as utensils, books and doorknobs).
  • If you vomit or have diarrhea, wash your hands and clean your washroom thoroughly. Avoid handling food when you are ill.
  • Practice safer sex in order to avoid sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Some STIs, especially certain strains of gonorrhea, are antibiotic resistant.

Other tips that help stop the spread of antibiotic resistance.

  • Make sure your vaccinations are up to date.
  • Ensure 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 help eliminate bacteria and reduce the risk of food-related illness. It is especially important to wash your hands before and after handling raw meat, fish or seafood. Thoroughly wash all fruits and vegetables that will be eaten raw.
  • If you use well water, have it tested regularly.

Responsible use of antibiotics

If you are sick, stay at home until you are feeling better. This helps stop the spread of bacteria and other germs.
Visit a healthcare professional if you think you need a prescription. 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 exactly as directed by your healthcare professional; make sure you know:
    • how much to take (the right dosage),
    • when to take your antibiotics, and
    • how many days you should take them.
  • Even if you feel better, finish your antibiotics as directed to make sure that all of the bacteria are destroyed.
  • If you are told to stop taking antibiotics by a health professional, do not keep the unused antibiotics; return them to a pharmacy for safe disposal.
  • Do not share your antibiotics with anyone, use leftover antibiotics or use antibiotics prescribed for someone other than yourself.
  • Inform your healthcare professional if you experience a bad reaction or side effect.

Remember that antibiotics treat bacterial infections and are not effective against viral infections like the common cold or the flu. Although you may feel very sick, antibiotics will not help with viral infections. Sometimes a lab test is needed to identify whether you have a bacterial or viral infection. Speak to a healthcare professional and ask questions if you are concerned.

Role of healthcare professionals

Healthcare professionals play a vital role in preventing the spread of antibiotic resistance. Using antibiotics only when needed can help reduce antibiotic resistance. Antibiotic stewardship should be practiced whenever antibiotics are used:

  • in hospitals and long-term care facilities,
  • for community medicine, agriculture and veterinary use, and  
  • in the home and community.

All authorized antibiotic prescribers should ensure they follow provincial, territorial, or local guidance to choose:

  • the most appropriate drug,
  • at the correct dose, and
  • for the correct duration.

Healthcare professional references

It is important for healthcare professionals to practice infection prevention and control in healthcare settings. This will help reduce the spread of both regular and resistant germs. The Public Health Agency of Canada (the Agency) developed Routine Practices and Additional Precautions for Preventing the Transmission of Infection in Healthcare Settings to assist healthcare professionals. The Agency has also developed a poster for healthcare workers which 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 healthcare settings. The Agency has also developed comprehensive guidance for healthcare professionals on this issue. Hand Hygiene Practices in Healthcare Settings provides a framework for developing programs, policies and procedures for hand hygiene in healthcare settings.

Antibiotic prescribing references such as Bugs & Drugs provide healthcare professionals with the latest recommendations for the proper use of antibiotics. Used with the correct provincial, territorial, or local guidance, these references provide information about the best treatment and prevention of infectious diseases.

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