Your child has a cold and feels miserable. You take him or her to the pediatrician expecting an antibiotic as treatment. Unfortunately, this mindset has lead to more and more children becoming dangerously resistant to antibiotics.
Dr. Shannon Ross is with Infectious Diseases at Children's of Alabama. She says antibiotic overuse is leading to children becoming very sick and harder to treat. "We see children every day who five to 10 years ago, we could have treated with an oral antibiotic. But because there are not many options, we are having to admit them and give them an IV antibiotic," she says.
Most illnesses are caused by a virus. However, antibiotics don't treat viruses. They treat bacterial infections. "A bacterial infection would be something like pneumonia or an ear infection," Dr. Ross says. "And antibiotics are necessary to treat those infections." Antibiotics can even be life-saving when used to treat a bacterial infection. But if a child receives antibiotics when it's not needed, this overuse can lead to the child being resistant over time. "We are seeing, over the past decade or so, increasing resistance," Dr. Ross says. "Common infections, pneumonias, bladder infections we used to treat easily are now resistant to common antibiotics."
Antibiotic resistance is a widespread problem. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) calls it "one of the world's most pressing public health problems." Dr. Ross says parents can play an essential role in preventing antibiotic resistance. "When taking your child to the pediatrician, talk to your pediatrician about the diagnosis.If he or she prescribes an antibiotic, it's OK to ask what the antibiotic is for and if it's necessary." She also advises that parents don't pressure pediatricians to prescribe medicine their child doesn't need.
If the pediatrician does prescribe an antibiotic. Remember these safety tips:
- Take antibiotic exactly as prescribed
- Don't skip a dose
- Finish the course of treatment
- Never share antibiotics with anyone else
Parents can also help fight antibiotic resistance by encouraging their children to take simple steps to prevent the spread of infections. Encourage hand-washing and make sure your child is up to date on their immunizations. Also, remember if your child has a cold the best thing to do is "ride it out." Help keep them hydrated and make sure they get plenty of rest. This will help their immune system to fight off the virus on its own.