KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — 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.

Antibiotics are effective on infections that are caused by bacteria, like strep throat, urinary tract infections and some ear infections according to East Tennessee Children’s Hospital. Antibiotics are not effective on viruses like the flu, colds and gastroenteritis- the stomach bug.

Dr. Shannon Cohen with Children’s says one of the dangers of overprescribing antibiotics is 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.

Only a doctor can determine if it’s a bacterial infection or a virus making your child ill, says Cohen. 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.

Side effects of antibiotics

  • Stomach upset
  • Diarrhea
  • Allergic Reaction (this can be serious)

Tips for using antibiotics safely

  • Use antibiotics as prescribed.
    • Sometimes your child will feel better after a couple days, but may need 10 days of antibiotics, for example, to be sure the infection is gone.
  • NEVER save antibiotics to use later.
  • NEVER use another person’s prescription.