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Viewpoints

Canadians’ Knowledge and Awareness about Unnecessary Antibiotics

by: Karen Born, Choosing Wisely Canada

Over 90% of all antibiotics in Canada are prescribed in the community setting–meaning outside of hospitals and in settings like a family doctors office or primary care clinic. A very common reason for Canadians to visit a primary care provider is for complaints relating to the common cold and to deal with symptoms of cough, fever, runny nose, sore chest and throat.

In 2019, Choosing Wisely Canada partnered with Ipsos to survey Canadians about their knowledge, attitudes and expectations about taking antibiotics for a cough or cold. The survey was completed by 1000 Canadians who were selected to mirror the geographic and demographic diversity of our country.

The results suggest that Canadians know about the harms of unnecessary antibiotics generally, but are less aware about when this might apply to their own use of these medications. Antibiotics are designed to kill infection-causing bacteria. However, often infections are not caused by bacteria and are viral in origin. For viral infections, antibiotics will not help people get better faster and in fact can cause harm. The survey results offer useful information to advance public education and awareness building activities to reduce unnecessary antibiotic prescribing. Canadians need more information to help them make good choices for themselves and their family members about when they need an antibiotic, and when they do not.

Knowledge on effectiveness of antibiotics

What Canadians expect when they see their doctor for a cough or cold

Public education about unnecessary antibiotics are reaching Canadians

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