Antibiotics save lives, but many are not needed and overusing them can be dangerous. The Centers for Disease Control calls antibiotic resistance one of the most urgent threats to our health.
Dr. Katy Stordahl with East Tennessee Children’s Hospital says antibiotics are effective on infections that are caused by bacteria, like strep throat, urinary tract infections and some ear infections. However, antibiotics are not effective on viruses like the flu, colds and gastroenteritis (stomach bug).
Overprescribing can be dangerous because antibiotic resistance can build up, which means bacteria don’t respond to antibiotics that may have worked in the past. So, antibiotics may not work when a sick child really needs them to.
Antibiotics can also have side effects that can make your child feel worse than the actual illness he or she is trying to battle. Those side effects can include stomach upset, diarrhea and allergic reaction, which can be serious.
You should remember that only a doctor can determine if it’s a bacterial infection or a virus making your child ill. Even if antibiotics aren’t prescribed, your child’s pediatrician can tell you which over the counter medications may help while an illness runs its course.
If your child is prescribed antibiotics, use them safely and as prescribed. Sometimes your child will feel better after a couple of days but may need 10 days of antibiotics, for example, to be sure the infection is gone. Never save antibiotics to use later and never use another person’s prescription.