Sneezing billboards educate on colds, flu and antibiotic resistance

sneezing billboards image: young man mid-sneeze

Many Australians are doing a double take this week as they walk past ‘sneezing billboards’ designed to help Australians understand colds and flu can be managed without antibiotics.

The sneezing posters—which depict a man with a head cold mid-sneeze—carry the health messages ‘don’t pass on your germs’ and ‘practise good hygiene’. They are part of the next phase of the nationwide NPS MedicineWise campaign about good use of antibiotics.

With much of Australia experiencing a cold snap, it’s a crucial time of year for raising awareness about the management of viral colds and flu, says NPS MedicineWise.

“We’re stressing the importance of good hygiene this cold and flu season as it’s important to know how to prevent the spread of colds to others,” says Dr Andrew Boyden, NPS MedicineWise clinical adviser.

To prevent the spread of colds and flu, NPS is advising consumers:

  • cover your mouth when sneezing or coughing;
  • keep hands away from your eyes, nose and mouth;
  • use tissues to blow your nose and throw them away after use;
  • wash your hands with soap, particularly before preparing, touching or eating food and after blowing your nose; and
  • avoid sharing cups, glasses and cutlery.


Along with good hygiene, Dr Boyden stresses the importance of not expecting antibiotics to treat ordinary colds and flu.

“Resting and treating the symptoms is the best course of action, and that’s because these typical winter illnesses are caused by viruses—not bacteria—so antibiotics won’t help,” he says.

“People with flu who are generally healthy will get better without any treatment, because the body’s immune system can take care of the infection on its own.

“But it’s also important to note that some people with underlying health conditions that make their immune system less able to fight the infection may in fact be treated with antibiotics as the risk of secondary bacterial infection is higher.

“In these cases, antibiotics should be taken as prescribed by a health professional.

“So this winter we’re urging people to not ask for antibiotics when they don’t need them, and to let their doctor know that they only want antibiotics if they are truly necessary.”

As an adjunct to the sneezing billboards, popular television GP Dr John D’Arcy is appearing in a new NPS MedicineWise community service announcement for television and social media channels to explain the concept of antibiotic resistance and how our personal behaviours—such as asking for antibiotics for colds and flu, and not taking antibiotics as prescribed—contribute to the problem of the development and passing on of antibiotic resistant bacteria.

NPS MedicineWise is delivering these health messages this winter as the issue of antibiotic resistance needs personal action from Australians now.

The World Health Organization has warned that antibiotic resistance is one of the greatest threats to human health today. Australia has one of the highest prescription rates globally, with around 29 million prescriptions for antibiotics issued each year.

View the community service announcement here.

The sneezing billboards are located in Sydney in Chatswood and Darling Harbour, and in Melbourne at Flinders Street Station and Southern Cross Station.

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