You hear a lot of conflicting information about antibiotics these days. Your kid gets a cold and a friend tells you, “It could be a sinus infection – you need to get her some antibiotics!” You get your pediatrician to prescribe something, whereupon another friend tells you, “That stuff is dangerous! Pretty soon all the germs will be immune to them!”
What’s a conscientious parent to do? Dr. Victoria Regan, a pediatrician affiliated with Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital, gave us the 411.
What’s the big debate about antibiotics? Are there really risks associated with overuse or over-prescription?
Antibiotic resistance is growing. Many patients demand antibiotics for viral illnesses like the common cold, but antibiotics cannot treat viruses. This overuse has resulted in more resistant bacteria. Unfortunately, some strains of deadly bacteria have become resistant to all antibiotics, making treatment very difficult.
How commonly do parents request antibiotics prescriptions for their children?
Parents often request antibiotics. But the American Academy of Pediatrics is clear about this: If the physical exam does not support a bacterial reason for the fever, antibiotics should not be given. If the pediatrician takes the time to explain an antibiotic will not help – and may even hurt – their child, most parents are understanding and do not demand it.
What tips would you give parents regarding antibiotics use for their children?
If your child has a fever, don’t expect to get an antibiotic. Ask your child’s pediatrician what type of infection your child has, and whether or not an antibiotic would be effective in treating your child’s symptoms. If you utilize an urgent care clinic or a non-pediatric emergency room and your child is prescribed an antibiotic, don’t hesitate to ask why they are prescribing it, and double-check with your child’s pediatrician the next day. And if your child’s infection does require an antibiotic, always take it as directed. Double-check with your doctor’s office if the directions from the pharmacy don’t make sense.