ONE in four people still wrongly believe that antibiotics prevent colds from developing into more serious illnesses, or that they speed up recovery from colds.
And 37pc of the public agreed that "by the time I am sick enough to contact or visit a doctor because of a cold I usually expect to get a prescription for antibiotics".
The findings have emerged from a Health Service Executive (HSE) survey to mark Antibiotic Awareness Day.
Six in 10 acknowledged that there "is a degree of health danger associated with taking antibiotics".
While there is still widespread misuse of antibiotics, a third of adults claim to have taken medicines in the past year, down from almost half in 2009.
Speaking at a meeting of doctors organised by the HSE yesterday, Dr Fidelma Fitzpatrick, consultant microbiologist said: "Antibiotics have truly transformed modern medicine and are appropriately used to treat or prevent bacterial infections.
"However, we are all in danger of taking antibiotics for granted and we all have a role to play so that we don't return to the pre-antibiotic era.
"Before antibiotics were available, common injuries such as cuts and scratches that became infected sometimes resulted in death or serious illness because there was no treatment available. Thankfully, this does not happen anymore as we have antibiotics available to treat these infections."
The HSE theme this year is: 'Taking Antibiotics for Colds and Flu? There's no point'.
Dr Fitzpatrick also added that the "casual attitude to antibiotics is damaging their effectiveness".
She said that the evidence was very clear – overuse and misuse of antibiotics had allowed bacteria to develop ways of protecting themselves and we were seeing an alarming global rise in superbugs.
The key advice for using antibiotics is:
• Antibiotics don't work for colds or flu. If you have a cold or flu, read the patient information leaflet for advice on how to help yourself get better and ask your doctor for advice if you are concerned.
• Antibiotics should be taken exactly as prescribed – at the right time for the right duration.
• Always finish an antibiotic course – even if you feel a lot better. This is to ensure that all the bacteria are killed completely and that no survivors are left that could multiply and develop resistance.