An "apocalypse" in which antibiotics no longer work for serious infections can be expected if people keep on asking their doctor for the drugs, health officials have warned.
According to Public Health England (PHE), an estimated 5,000 people die every year in England because antibiotics no longer work for some infections.
To tackle the issue, PHE has launched the Keep Antibiotics Working campaign to encourage GPs to stop prescribing antibiotics when they are not necessary - particularly for colds, flu, earache, sore throats and chest infections.
In addition, the new initiative tells people to always trust their doctor, nurse or pharmacist on when to take antibiotics - and when it's not necessary.
Through the campaign, PHE hopes to combat the "threat from resistance".
Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) occurs when bacteria changes in such a way that the medication used to treat them - in this case antibiotics - becomes ineffective.
Paul Cosford, medical director at PHE, described AMR as one of the "most dangerous global crises facing the modern day world".
He said: "Taking antibiotics when you don't need them puts you and your family at risk of developing infections which in turn cannot be easily treated with antibiotics."
England's chief medical officer, professor Dame Sally Davies, warned of a "post-antibiotic apocalypse", where antibiotics no longer work for serious infections.
She said: "Without effective antibiotics, minor infections could become deadly and many medical advances could be at risk.
"Surgery, chemotherapy and Caesareans could become simply too dangerous.
"But reducing inappropriate use of antibiotics can help us stay ahead of superbugs."
Ms Davies believes members of the public have a "critical role to play and can help by taking collective action".
Experts have suggested that, in just over 30 years, antibiotic resistance will kill more people globally than cancer and diabetes combined.
But the campaign has faced some criticism.
Melissa Mead, whose son William died from sepsis due to a chest infection that could have been treated with antibiotics, warned there should be "less of a taboo" over prescribing antibiotics when needed.
William, from Cornwall, had been ill for six to eight weeks before he died and had been seen by GPs six times before his death.
The doctors failed to diagnose a chest infection and eventual pneumonia which led to the sepsis that killed him.
A report into his death said there was pressure on GPs to reduce antibiotic prescribing.
Mrs Mead said: "I think it's right that we don't use antibiotics flippantly.
"Overuse would prevent serious infections such as sepsis responding to treatment.
"I do, however, believe there should be less of a taboo about prescribing antibiotics when it is clinically evident to do so.
"Earlier intervention with antibiotics would have saved William's life. It was clinically evident he needed them."
Keep up to date with the latest news in west London via the free getwestlondon app.
You can set up your app to see all the latest news and events from your area, plus receive push notifications for breaking news.