The government has launched a drive to remind people that antibiotics do not help with coughs, colds and sore throats.
Over-prescribing has been linked to the development of "superbugs" that fail to respond to treatment, with diseases becoming more resistant to antibiotics.
The media campaign, led by the Chief Medical Officer for England, Sir Liam Donaldson, is targeting the public and doctors, and is aimed at driving down antibiotic use.
Sir Liam expressed concern that bacteria are constantly evolving and developing resistance, which could mean that infections like pneumonia stop responding to treatment in the future.
He said: "Using antibiotics when they are not necessary will increase resistance to them and make it difficult to treat serious bacterial infections in the future.
"If you are suffering with cold and flu symptoms or a sore throat you should rest, take plenty of fluids and speak to your pharmacist."
A spokesman for the British Medical Association added: "It is timely for people to be reminded about the consequences of antibiotic misuse."
However, he said that people with a serious condition should not be discouraged from visiting their doctor.
Copyright © Press Association 2009
Chief Medical Officer
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