The problem of antibiotic resistance has become a real concern as the use of antibiotics to treat infections continues to increase. Although antibiotics have their place in treating serious illnesses caused by bacteria, it’s estimated that over fifty million prescriptions are written each year for unnecessary antibiotics. Doctor’s often feel compelled to write unnecessary antibiotic prescriptions as a way to meet a patient’s desire for some form of treatment. This practice may be justified as a way to “prevent secondary infection”. Not only does this contribute to the problem of antibiotic resistance, it’s also expensive and can result in significant side effects for the patient. One of the most common causes of liver failure in this country is antibiotic induced liver failure.
The situation is even more disturbing when it comes to giving unnecessary antibiotics to children. It’s been shown that children who take antibiotics are twice as likely to develop an infection that’s resistant to antibiotic treatment. There’s already evidence that resistant antibiotic infections among children are on the rise, including the most serious form of resistant staph infection, MRSA. In the case of resistant infection, expensive, high powered antibiotics have to be used that are generally reserved for infections unresponsive to other antibiotics. There’s also the danger that these high powered antibiotics will also become resistant once they’re used frequently.
When your child receives unnecessary antibiotics to treat a common viral infection, it may be increasing his or her risk of developing MRSA or other serious, resistant infections. How do you know when your child is receiving antibiotics he or she doesn’t need? The majority of runny noses, coughs, and sore throats are caused by viruses and won’t respond to antibiotic treatment. In some cases, a sore throat can be caused by the Strep bacteria which does require antibiotic treatment. This can be determined by a quick Strep test performed in your doctor’s office.
Ear infections which were once almost always treated with antibiotics have now been shown to clear in most cases without treatment. Most doctors are now taking a “wait and see” approach before prescribing antibiotics. Even sinus infections with yellow or green nasal discharge are usually not bacterial in nature and generally clear on their own, Antibiotics may be needed if the symptoms fail to resolve within a certain period of time.
The best way to ensure that your child doesn’t get unnecessary antibiotics is to question your doctor as to why antibiotics are needed. It’s important to be sure they’re being used to treat a bacterial infection rather than a viral one. Let your child’s doctor know you’re concerned about antibiotic resistance. Being informed and asking the right questions can go far towards protecting your child against unnecessary antibiotic prescriptions and their potential side effects.