Here’s a good question, kids: Why do antibiotics for children kill invading illnesses, but not human cells?
The simplest answer is that illness-causing bacteria are surrounded by rigid cell walls, whereas human cells are not (they are surrounded by a plasma membrane, alone). Antibiotics for children and adults act to weaken the cell walls of harmful bacteria, causing them to burst, or by eliminating their ability to reproduce.
As we speak, there are approximately one hundred thousand billion bacteria living inside us – in our mouths, throats, digestive systems, and on our skin. Bacteria are one-celled organisms, a few thousandths of a millimeter in dimension. Some help us, by breaking down the nutrients in our food. Others are harmful, causing illnesses like strep throat, sinus infections, and ear infections.
Antibacterials like penicillin attack the cell wall, causing it to rupture and die. Bacteriostatic antibiotics, such as tetracycline, prevent nutrients from reaching the bacteria, effectively blocking its reproductive ability and allowing the body’s autoimmune system time to regroup and mount an offense.
Broad spectrum antibiotics for children can combat multiple kinds of germs, with one small caveat– while they are busy killing these invaders, they might simultaneously be attacking the body’s helpful bacteria that aid in digestion, potentially leading to a wide range of unpleasantness, from diarrhea to asthma to obesity.
Other antibacterial agents – considered narrow spectrum – can successfully target specific maladies, after a pediatric provider zeroes in on the culprit using blood or urine tests. These antibiotics work without harming resident microbes/good bacteria that help to keep the body healthy.
Typically, for an otherwise healthy adult or child – a brief course of antibiotics is all that is needed to nip an infection in the bud, and the body’s immune system rebounds swiftly afterward.
At one time, prophylactic antibacterial drugs were prescribed as preventive measures in cases of reoccurring illness, such as chronic urinary tract infections. This practice is less and less common due to growing concerns of compliance and antibiotic resistance.
At KinderMender, we believe that antibiotics for children are occasionally needed to get your son or daughter back up on his or her feet, but we also believe that they should be prescribed only when absolutely necessary. If your child is under the weather, call for an appointment or stop by one of our three convenient locations today!