Objective: To assess public knowledge, attitudes and behaviour regarding antibiotics to provide information for a local health education policy.
Design: Postal survey to 605 patients registered with two general medical practices in Grampian, North-East Scotland (351 respondents, 59.3%) in February/ March 2000. Questionnaire topics covered attitudes, knowledge and behaviour towards antibiotic use.
Results: 326 (93%) had experience of antibiotic use and 319 (81%) were happy to take antibiotics when necessary. 158 (45%) were concerned about antibiotic resistance. Few would expect antibiotics to treat a slight cold or heavy cold, but around half would expect antibiotics for very sore throats and influenza. 262 (75%) indicated they would ask a pharmacist for advice about the treatment of RTI. Most respondents experienced at least one episode of RTI during the review period. 280 (80%) provided details of their most recent episode; most self-treated, 57 consulted a doctor of whom 43 (75%) were prescribed antibiotics.
Conclusions: Antibiotic resistance is a matter of concern for the public. Mixed opinions about the use of antibiotics for common respiratory tract infections were heard. Encouragingly the majority of people suffering an RTI during the review period treated themselves with paracetamol-based products for symptom relief. Those who consulted a doctor were in the minority but were likely to be prescribed antibiotics. Future local health education initiatives should target antibiotic use for sore throats as well as colds and 'flu.