HEALTH SPOTLIGHT: When are Antibiotics Best for Your Child’s Illness?

By  //  December 11, 2018

indiscriminate use of antibiotics leads to antibiotic resistance

Antibiotics aren’t always the answer when your child is sick. Parents need to know that using antibiotics when they are not the right medicine will not help and may even cause harm to children.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Space Coast Daily is delighted to welcome Dr. Christopher Johnson as a guest contributor on issues of child health and well-being.

With 35 years of experience practicing pediatrics, pediatric critical care (intensive care), and pediatric emergency room care he is committed to educating parents on how best to meet the needs of the ill and injured child in today’s often confusing and complex healthcare system.

In this article, Dr. Johnson reports on a Q & A from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) that addresses the issues related to the use and misuse of antibiotics in children.

— Dr. Jim Palermo, Editor-in-Chief

Last week was National Get Smart About Antibiotics Week. The American Academy of Pediatrics marked the occasion with useful answers to 10 common questions parents have about antibiotics. Here are a few of them:

  1. My child has a really bad cold. Why won’t my doctor prescribe antibiotics? It’s because colds are caused by viruses and antibiotics don’t work for viruses.
  2. Don’t some viral infections turn into bacterial ones? So why wait on the antibiotics? What’s called bacterial superinfection, coming on top of a previous viral illness, happens. But it’s rare in children.
  3. Is green drainage from the nose a sign of bacterial infection requiring antibiotics? No, this has been studied extensively, and it doesn’t mean there must be a bacterial infection.

Other questions address issues of antibiotics for sore throats and ear infections, common side effects of antibiotics, and how indiscriminate use of antibiotics leads to the problem of resistance, so the antibiotic doesn’t work anymore.

Here’s a useful summary of the piece, but it’s well worth your time to look at it:

  • Antibiotics aren’t always the answer when your child is sick. Ask your child’s doctor what the best treatment is for your child.
  • Ask your child’s doctor if the antibiotic being prescribed is the best for your child’s type of bacterial infection. For instance, certain antibiotics such as azithromycin are no longer effective for the bacteria causing most ear and sinus infections.
  • Antibiotics work against bacterial infections. They don’t work on colds and flu.
  • Make sure that you give the medicine exactly as directed.
  • Don’t use one child’s antibiotic for a sibling or friend; you may give the wrong medicine and cause harm.
  • Throw away unused antibiotics. Do not save antibiotics for later use; some out-of-date medicines can actually be harmful. Call Poison Help at 1-800-222-1222 or check the US Food and Drug Administration Web site for information on the safe disposal of medicines.
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Christopher Johnson, MD

Dr. Christopher Johnson received his undergraduate education in history and religion at Haverford College in Haverford, Pennsylvania, where he graduated magna cum laude in 1974. He earned his Doctor of Medicine degree in 1978 from Mayo Medical School in Rochester, Minnesota, then trained in general pediatrics at Vanderbilt University Children’s Hospital in Nashville, Tennessee, followed by training in pediatric infectious diseases, hematology research, and pediatric critical care medicine at the Mayo Graduate School of Medicine. Dr. Johnson is certified by the American Board of Pediatrics in general pediatrics and in pediatric critical care medicine and is a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Dr. Johnson, who has been named to a list of  The 50 Best Mayo Clinic Doctors — Ever,” devotes his time to practicing pediatric critical care as President of Pediatric Intensive Care Associates, P.C., as Medical Director of the PICU for CentraCare Health Systems, and to writing about medicine for general readers. His popular website/blog and four books provide a wealth of information and answers to practical questions related to child health issues.