As discussed in a previous blog post, antibiotics are great tools for treating infections caused by bacteria, fungi, and certain types of parasites. Antibiotics are not useful for treating viral infections, however, and should not be used for the flu, colds, most coughs and sore throats, and many ear infections.
Unfortunately, many parents do use antibiotics to treat viral infections, because they mistakenly believe that antibiotics should be used “just to be safe.” With that mentality, it’s easy to see how many parents can overuse antibiotics, even when their children (1) will not feel any better after taking the medication and (2) could still spread the infection to other people.
Furthermore, the misuse and overuse of antibiotics have resulted in a widespread resistance to many common medications.
What is antibiotic resistance?
Antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria are no longer affected by an antibiotic that previously had worked. Antibiotic resistance has serious and even deadly consequences, and is frequently responsible for the increasing number of infections that do not improve with common antibiotics. This affects all of us, as we all live in a society which shares certain types of bacteria, which can then become resistant to antibiotics and further spread throughout the community.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 76% of all pus producing skin infections are caused by the penicillin resistant bacteria MRSA, which developed out of the overuse of penicillin.
How can you prevent antibiotic resistance and avoid the overuse of antibiotics?
- When in doubt, take your child to the doctor. Unlike the vast amounts of information on the internet that can leave you more paranoid – and grossed out – than informed, your pediatrician can diagnose your child with a bacterial or viral infection.
- Your child should take antibiotics only as prescribed to him by his doctor, because the doctor will know what should and should not be used to treat his illness.
- Have your child take the recommended dosage, without skipping doses, and complete the entire course of treatment. Many patients stop taking medication once they start to feel better, which is another factor in bacteria becoming resistant to antibiotics.
- You should discard your child’s leftover medication once the treatment has been completed. Do not save the antibiotics for any future illness.
- Do not ask for an antibiotic when your child has a viral infection or any other illness that antibiotics cannot treat. It is tempting to want to eliminate your child’s pain with medication, but antibiotics are not needed for every sniffle or cough.