5 Questions To Ask Your Doctor Before Giving Your Child An Antibiotic
Using antibiotics the wrong way can make your child next infection much harder to treat
Your child has a routine cold and all the symptoms that come with it: fever, sore throat and sneezing. But does your kiddo need an antibiotic?
It may surprise you to find out the answer is no.
For viruses such as a cold, antibiotics aren’t necessary. Antibiotics don’t kill viruses. They only kill bacteria.
Too often, doctors prescribe an antibiotic as an answer to all your needs. But the truth is rampant prescriptions for antibiotics may be causing more harm than good for your child.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says 47 million unnecessary antibiotic prescriptions are written in doctor’s offices, emergency rooms and hospital-based clinics each year. The CDC estimates that up to one-third to one-half of antibiotic use in humans is either unnecessary or inappropriate.
Using antibiotics the wrong way can cause bacteria to grow into superbugs and this could mean a problem for your child.
“Antibiotics are drugs used to treat bacterial infections,” said Marc Mazade, M.D., a pediatrician who specializes in Infectious Diseases at Cook Children’s. “Over prescribing or using antibiotics the wrong way can lead to antibiotic-resistant infections. This means the next time your child is sick, the next infection could be much harder to treat when he or she really needs an antibiotic.”
If you are unsure if you or your child needs an antibiotic, ask your health care provider these 5 questions:
1.“Do I really need an antibiotic?”
2.“Can I get better without this antibiotic?”
3.“What side effects or drug interactions can I expect?”
4.“What side effects should I report to you?”
5.“How do you know what kind of infection I have? I understand that antibiotics won’t work for viral infections.”
Each year in the United States, at least 2 million people get serious infections with bacteria that are resistant to one or more of the antibiotics designed to treat those infections. At least 23,000 people die each year as a direct result of these antibiotic infections, according to the CDC.
“I think what happens sometimes is that health care providers feel pressured to give antibiotics from their patients or in a child’s case, the patient’s family,” Dr. Mazade said. “The parents feel they are doing what is right for their child, but the reality is that they may be causing long-term harm to him or her. If they overuse antibiotics, the next time children need the drug to fight off an infection, antibiotic resistance may make the antibiotic useless.”
Antibiotic resistance happens when bacteria change in a way that reduces or eliminates the ability of antibiotics to kill the bacteria.
You do not need antibiotics for:
- Most coughs and bronchitis
- Sore throats not caused by strep
- Runny noses
- Most ear aches
Ask – “Are these antibiotics necessary?” “What can I do to feel better?”
Bacteria – Antibiotics do not kill viruses. They only kill bacteria.
Complete the Course – When an antibiotic is needed, take all of your antibiotics exactly as prescribed (even if you are feeling better).
Learn more about antibiotic resistance:
- CDC: Know When Antibiotics Work in Doctor’s Offices
- Infection Prevention and You
- WHO Lists 12 Bacteria Posing Greatest Threat To Human Health
- Too many antibiotics not helpful, could cause harm
About Cook Children's Infectious Diseases
Cook Children's Infectious Disease team offers care for children and teens with diseases caused by bacteria, parasites, fungi or viruses.