Should I Give My Child Antibiotics? Preventing Antibiotic Resistance

Published on in Health Tip of the Week

Parent's hand hold pills and bottle Winter is right around the corner, and with it comes the onslaught of respiratory infections. When your little one is achy, feverish and coughing up a storm, you would do anything to help them feel better. Unfortunately, the first treatment many people think of – an antibiotic – isn't always the answer.

Antibiotics kill bacteria, not viruses, which cause most respiratory infections. Antibiotic overuse leads to antibiotic resistance, which means the antibiotic can no longer kill bacteria. The result: antibiotic-resistant infections, or “superbugs,” which cause millions of illnesses and tens of thousands of deaths each year. If antibiotics are used only to treat bacterial infections, much less resistance will occur.

Preventing antibiotic resistance

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that up to half of all antibiotics prescribed in the United States are prescribed unnecessarily. Because children use antibiotics more frequently than adults, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the CDC provide stringent guidelines to help pediatricians make the most informed decisions when prescribing antibiotics. The goal of these guidelines is to reduce unnecessary prescriptions and the spread of antibiotic resistance.

Here are a few ways you can help prevent the misuse of antibiotics:

  • Use antibiotics only to treat bacterial infections, such as urinary tract infections, skin infections, sinus infections lasting longer than two weeks, some ear infections and strep throat.
  • Do not use antibiotics to treat infections caused by viruses, like colds, flu, most sore throats, or stomach bugs. Instead, treat your child’s symptoms and make your child as comfortable as possible.
  • Do not give your child's medicine to someone else, even if you are certain that the other person has the same illness as your child.
  • Do not take antibiotics prescribed to someone else.
  • Talk to your pharmacist to find out how to safely dispose of any leftover medication.
  • Talk to your pediatrician if you have any questions about your child’s antibiotic use.

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Contributed by: Talene A. Metjian, PharmD, Molly Hayes, PharmD, BCPS

Categories: Weekly Health Tips