Antibiotic Abuse

When your child has a bad cold, it seems quite comforting to give  antibiotics and say  goodbye to sick days . But think hard before giving antibiotics to your child. We enlist some important concerns before starting the antibiotics for kids.

Most sore throats, coughs and runny nose do not require antibiotics for treatment. Antibiotics only treat bacterial infections and not viral infectionS. Viruses thrive inside the patient’s body, completely unaffected by the antibiotic medication. Also, taking an antibiotic comes with its share of risks. Adverse drug reactions or side effects like diarrhea or vomiting can occur in about 1-5 out of 100 children. Some children may have serious life threatening allergies.

Antibiotic resistant bacteria may develop at a faster rate in the whole community as a direct consequence of misuse and overuse of antibiotics. Such bacterial infections are almost impossible to treat with common antibiotics. They need more expensive and rare antibiotics to treat. Doctors are urged to think hard before prescribing an antibiotic. They should do so only after evaluating the real need with their professional acumen.

Some hypothetical case scenarios that prompt Antibiotic use: 

1. Child has a really bad cold and is suffering from a runny nose, cough and congestion. Will the doctor prescribe the antibiotics?

Most Infections caused by viruses present as cold . Child may feel better with care and proper diet and without any medicines in 3-4 days. Antibiotics will not help in viral infections. The duration of symptoms will also not change and cold will take its course.

2. Scare that the Child’s cold will turn into bacterial infections eventually. So, maybe it’s better to start antibiotics on time. Why wait for his condition to get worse?

Do not get scared!! Bacterial infections generally do not follow viral infections. Instead, using the antibiotics without its proper indication, may lead to a secondary infection caused by the resistant bacteria. Also, side effects like nausea, diarrhea and stomach pain along with allergic reactions like rashes may occur with overuse of antibiotics.

3. A child with a stuffy and runny nose with yellow or green mucus discharge is a sign of bacterial infection?

On the contrary, it is quite normal to suffer from a cold and have a runny nose with transparent mucus discharge at first, which turns  to a thick, ropy and colored mucus at a later stage. Cold takes about 10 days to get cured.

5.  Every cold starts with a sore throat. How to differentiate between common cold viruses or bacteria?

More than 80% of sore throats are caused by viruses. If a sore throat is followed by a runny nose and cough it’s most likely viral origin. If the child is suffering from high fever for more than 5 days with only sore throat, doctors test for Streptococcus bacterial infection and prescribe antibiotics in the event of a positive test. Bacterial infection generally makes school going children sick. Young children below 3 years of age do not usually have strep throat.

6. If a child develops allergic symptoms during an antibiotic course, do we stop giving the dose and consult the doctor?

Side effects are very common with antibiotics. Itchy rashes and hives may happen if your child is allergic to any medicine. Stomach pain, nausea and diarrhea may also happen. Inform your child’s doctor timely, as the doctor may want to change the medicine. It is very important to record these events in your child’s medical history for future considerations before prescribing similar antibiotics. Symptoms may revert back after stopping the antibiotic course abruptly without any alternative medication.

7.  When does the child start feeling better after taking the antibiotics?

It takes 48-72 hours to control the bacterial infection with an antibiotic. You should call your child’s doctor if his condition deteriorates further or does not improve within 72 hours. Always complete the full course as prescribed by the pediatrician. Otherwise, infection may not clear completely and the symptoms may reoccur.

8.  Antibiotics overuse may  lead to growth of resistant bacteria?

The overuse and misuse of antibiotics without proper indication can lead to bacterial resistance.These resistant bacteria can spread to other children and adults, besides being difficult to get killed by common antibiotics

It is very important that your child is given the proper antibiotic that is specific for his/her infection rather than a broad-spectrum antibiotic (antibiotic used for many kinds of infections).  If your child develops an antibiotic-resistant infection, it is a serious matter and the child may get hospitalized and sometimes given special antibiotics intravenously.

9.  Are antiviral medicines prescribed for the common cold?

Antiviral medicines are given to treat severe Influenza (flu) infections caused by Influenza viruses. These medicines are often not given in cases of common cold cough symptoms. They are prescribed for children who are at higher risk of becoming very sick if they get flu. Prevention is always better than cure. Yearly Influenza vaccinations can definitely protect the kids from Flu.

10.  Things to keep in mind before using antibiotics for kids?

  1. Never self medicate your child with antibiotics based on previous medical history. Every infection is different and so is its treatment. Always consult a doctor. Do not share your child’s antibiotic with any other child.
  2. Do not save the used antibiotics after the course in refrigerators for future use. Just throw away the remaining medicine as the opened or reconstituted antibiotics may become toxic and harmful.
  3.  Always describe your child’s symptoms well to the doctor and question him if he prescribes antibiotics. Get the assurance from doctor that antibiotics are  the best possible option for treatment in this situation
  4. Always remember that Antibiotics will not work against cold and flu
  5. Make sure that your child takes the full course of antibiotic and take the correct dosage as advised by the pediatrician

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