November 15-21, 2010 is Get Smart about Antibiotics Week. This is a campaign set forth by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is a partner in this campaign.
The goal this week is to help educate the public about the use of antibiotics, how they work, when they are needed, and their side effects.
Antibiotics are used to treat bacterial infections, such as ear infections, strep throat, sinusitis, and pneumonia. It is important to know that antibiotics don’t “work for everything.” Antibiotics do not treat viral infections. Viruses cause the common cold, the flu, and many cases of upper respiratory infections. You may wonder why your doctor does not prescribe an antibiotic each time your child is evaluated for his/her sore throat, cough, and stuffy nose. That is because there is no cure for most viral infections.
In fact, taking antibiotics unnecessarily may do more harm than good. Your child may feel worse than he/she already does. Antibiotics change the normal gut flora. As a result, diarrhea is a common side effect as is nausea as well. In addition, judicious use of antibiotics is imperative so as to prevent antibiotic resistance. Over the decades, antibiotic resistance has increased. This means that some antibiotics are no longer effective in their fight against infectious certain bacteria. This occurred as a result of the overuse of antibiotics in the past. Lastly, it is important to make sure you follow your doctor’s directions in regards to how your child takes his/her antibiotics. Unless your child cannot tolerate his/her medication, please always make sure that he/she finishes the medication as directed. In addition, do not save “leftover” antibiotics and do not give “leftover” antibiotics. If you do, this leads to increased bacterial resistance. In other words, this antibiotic is less likely to have killed the bacteria the first time, rendering it less susceptible to that same bacteria the next time. As a result, your child will need to be placed on an additional course of antibiotics. And no one wants that.
As always, the best resource you can have for all your questions regarding bacterial and viral infections and the treatment of your child(ren)’s illness is your doctor. For more information, please check out the following webpages from the CDC (www.cdc.gov/getsmart/antibiotic-use/URI/index.html) and the AAP (www.healthychildren.org/English/News/pages/Get-Smart-About-Antibiotics.aspx).