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Publication: Attitudes and behaviours of adolescents towards antibiotics and self-care for respiratory tract infections: a qualitative study

Meredith KD Hawking,1,2 Donna M Lecky, Pia Touboul Lundgren, Eman Aldigs, Hind Abdulmajed, Eleni Ioannidou, Demetra Paraskeva-Hadjichambi, Pauline Khouri, Micaela Gal, Andreas Ch. Hadjichambis, Demetrios Mappouras, Cliodna AM McNulty


Background To understand attitudes and behaviours of adolescents towards antibiotics, antimicrobial resistance and respiratory tract infections. Design Qualitative approach informed by the Theory of Planned Behaviour. Semi-structured interviews and focus groups were undertaken. We aimed to inform the development of an intervention in an international setting to improve antibiotic use among adolescents; therefore on completion of thematic analysis, findings were triangulated with qualitative data from similar studies in France, Saudi Arabia and Cyprus to elucidate differences in the behaviour change model and adaptation to diverse contexts. Setting 7 educational establishments from the south of England. Participants 53 adolescents (16–18 years) participated in seven focus groups and 21 participated in interviews. Results Most participants had taken antibiotics and likened them to other common medications such as painkillers; they reported that their peers treat antibiotics like a ‘cure-all’ and that they themselves were not interested in antibiotics as a discussion topic. They demonstrated low knowledge of the difference between viral and bacterial infections.Participants self-cared for colds and flu but believed antibiotics are required to treat other RTIs such as tonsillitis, which they perceived as more ‘serious’. Past history of taking antibiotics for RTIs instilled the belief that antibiotics were required for future RTIs. Those who characterised themselves as ‘nonscience students’ were less informed about antibiotics and AMR. Most participants felt that AMR was irrelevant to them and their peers. Some ‘non-science’ students thought resistance was a property of the body, rather than bacteria. Conclusion Addressing adolescents’ misperceptions about antibiotics and the treatment of RTIs using a behaviour change intervention should help improve antibiotic awareness and may break the cycle of patient demand for antibiotics to treat RTIs amongst this group. Schools should consider educating all students in further education about antibiotic usage and AMR, not only those taking science.

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