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Children’s Antibiotics: Avoiding Overuse

The Phoenix pediatricians at Pediatrix understand a parent’s desire to make their sick child feel better, but prescribing antibiotics may not always be the answer. In fact, in some cases antibiotics can do more harm than good.

Giving a child unnecessary antibiotics does three potentially harmful things:

  • It exposes your child to the drug’s potential side effects.
  • It increases the child’s resistance to antibiotics, so when antibiotics are necessary to treat an infection in the future, a stronger drug may be required.
  • It contributes to antibiotic overuse in the community, which can lead to the growth of new antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria or superbugs.

When visiting your pediatrician with a sick child, keep in mind that some illnesses are caused by viruses, which cannot be treated by antibiotics. Colds, the flu, and chickenpox are all viral infections. Giving an antibiotic to treat a viral infection will do nothing to treat the infection; furthermore, this will kill healthy bacteria, lowering the child’s immune system and making them more susceptible to future bacterial infections.

Of course, there are cases of illness when antibiotics are warranted and should be prescribed to help your child heal. Bacterial infections, strep throat, ear infections, bacterial pneumonia, and bladder infections are typically treated with the use of antibiotics.

Your pediatrician will know what illnesses necessitate the use of antibiotics, but the responsibility to prevent antibiotic overuse is also yours as a parent. As much as you want to make your child’s sniffles or sore throat go away, it is important to resist the urge to ask for antibiotics every time your child is ill.  In addition, never give a child antibiotics that were leftover from a previous prescription or that were prescribed to someone else. Your Phoenix pediatrician will prescribe antibiotics if they will truly help your child.

When antibiotics are prescribed, follow all instructions and always complete the entire course of antibiotics, even if the child feels better before the end of the course. Stopping antibiotic treatment before the cycle of antibiotics is completed allows some bacteria to remain, which could cause your child to get sick again and need another round of antibiotics.

If you have questions or concerns about antibiotic overuse contact Pediatrix, your Phoenix pediatricians.




Subir K. Mitra, MD, FAAP

Posted in Blog on February 2nd, 2012