When to use antibiotics

antibioticsThere was a time when parents who had a child with a sore throat or flu symptoms would ask their child’s health care provider for an antibiotic to help her feel better and get well and some providers would prescribe it.  But we’ve learned over the years that antibiotics, which are wonderful in some situations, are not the be all and end all and if given too often they may cause more harm than good.

First of all, antibiotics treat only bacterial infections. They do nothing to fight viruses which are the cause of most common colds, cough and flu. Secondly, if antibiotics are used when they are not needed or appropriate, bacteria over time can become resistant to them and then the bacterial infections they are designed to treat will no longer be curable by these medications. Thirdly, when an antibiotic is properly prescribed but the complete course of the drug is not given to the patient (your toddler feels better after six days so the complete ten day course is not followed), resistance can occur.

The American Academy of Pediatrics wants parents to remember three important points regarding antibiotics:
1 – Do not ask your pediatrician for a prescription for antibiotics to treat your child’s colds and flu. This does not mean that you should not take your child to the doctor to be examined. Your doc will be able to tell you if it’s a viral or bacterial infection and whether or not she needs an antibiotic.
2 – When your pediatrician does prescribe an antibiotic for an infection, make sure your child takes it exactly as the doc tells you. Be sure that she takes all of it.
3 – Do not give your child antibiotics from a previous illness or one that has been prescribed for another family member.

Having the use of antibiotics at the right time can be a real blessing, even a life saver. Using them at the wrong time will do no good and may cause problems in the future.

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