Antibiotic Prescriptions for Children: 10 Common Questions Answered

shutterstock 48217207Antibiotic Prescriptions for Children: 10 Common Questions Answered

Parents need to know that using antibiotics when they are not the right medicine will not help and may even cause harm to children.  Here are answers to 10 common questions by parents that you might be asked this cold and flu season as well as responses to these questions. 

Colds are caused by viruses. Antibiotics are used specifically for infections caused by bacteria. In general, most common cold symptoms—such as runny nose, cough, and congestion—are mild and your child will get better without using any medicines. 

In most cases, bacterial infections do not follow viral infections. Using antibiotics to treat viral infections may instead lead to an infection caused by resistant bacteria. Also, your child may develop diarrhea or other side effects.

During a common cold, it is normal for mucus from the nose to get thick and to change from clear to yellow or green. Symptoms often last for 10 days. 

Not all ear infections are treated with antibiotics. At least half of all ear infections go away without antibiotics. If your child does not have a high fever or severe ear pain, your child's doctor may recommend observation initially.  Because pain is often the first and most uncomfortable symptom of ear infection, your child's doctor will suggest pain medicine to ease your child's pain

​​No. More than 80% of sore throats are caused by a virus. If your child has sore throat, runny nose, and a barky cough, a virus is the likely cause and a test for "strep" is not needed and should not be performed. Antibiotics should only be used to treat sore throats caused by group A streptococci. Infection caused by this type of bacteria is called "strep throat."

Side effects can occur in 1 out of every 10 children who take an antibiotic. Side effects may include rashes, allergic reactions, nausea, diarrhea, and stomach pain. Make sure you let your child's doctor know if your child has had a reaction to antibiotics. Sometimes a rash will occur during the time a child is taking an antibiotic. However, not all rashes are considered allergic reactions.

Most bacterial infections improve within 48 to 72 hours of starting an antibiotic. If your child's symptoms get worse or do not improve within 72 hours, call your child's doctor. If your child stops taking the antibiotic too soon, the infection may not be treated completely and the symptoms may start again. 

The repeated use and misuse of antibiotics can lead to resistant bacteria. Resistant bacteria are bacteria that are no longer killed by the antibiotics commonly used to treat bacterial infection. These resistant bacteria can also be spread to other children and adults. 

Influenza (flu) is a viral infection that can cause cold symptoms for which an antiviral medicine will work. An antiviral medicine may be prescribed for children that are at higher risk of becoming severely ill if they get the flu.

  • Antibiotics aren't always the answer when your child is sick. Ask your child's doctor what the best treatment is for your child.
  • Ask your child's doctor if the antibiotic being prescribed is the best for your child's type of bacterial infection.
  • Antibiotics work against bacterial infections. They don't work on colds and flu.
  • Make sure that you give the medicine exactly as directed.
  • Don't use one child's antibiotic for a sibling or friend; you may give the wrong medicine and cause harm.
  • Throw away unused antibiotics. Do not save antibiotics for later use; some out-of-date medicines can actually be harmful. Call Poison Help at 1-800-222-1222 or check the US Food and Drug Administration Web site for information on the safe disposal of medicines.

Portions of this posting were taken from an American Academy of Pediatrics article.  For the complete article and other helpful information for parents, please go to https://www.healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/at-home/medication-safety/Pages/Antibiotic-Prescriptions-for-Children.aspx

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