Antibiotics prescribed for children will help cure a sore throat or earache caused by a bacterial infection, but will do nothing to stop a viral one. Unfortunately it can be difficult for a doctor to tell which he or she is dealing with, and with a parent sitting there ready to deliver a kick in the shins if something isn’t done to relieve the child’s pain, some doctors are handing out antibiotics without being sure they are called for.
According to a new study linked by NPR:
“More than half of all outpatient antibiotic prescriptions are for respiratory infections … which includes ears, noses and throats. But some infections were more likely to be caused by bacteria than others. Ear infections were caused by bacteria 65 percent of the time, while strep tests revealed Streptococcus pyogenes bacteria causing that sore throat just 20 percent of the time.”
But the researchers found that kids visiting doctors for respiratory tract infections left with antibiotic prescriptions twice as often as were called for, which means a lot of kids are getting antibiotics they don’t need and that won’t help them. The excessive prescription of antibiotics can have side effects and increases the chances of antibiotic resistance, which is terrible for those kids and everyone around them.
Last year the American Academy of Pediatrics made a push to get doctors to stop prescribing antibiotics so often, but it’s tough not to when there’s a parent demanding antibiotics.
“Parents, if their child is up all night screaming and tugging the ear, they want something to make the child feel better," said Dr. Richard Rosenfeld of the State University of New York Downstate Medical Center.
But ear infections and sore throats will often go away on their own, so pediatricians are being encouraged to be more cautious about prescribing antibiotics, which can involve waiting a few days to see if the infection goes away on its own. One solution that’s been suggested is for doctors to hand out “contingency” antibiotic prescriptions and tell the parents to administer over-the-counter painkillers for a few days to see if the infection goes away on its own first. If it doesn’t, then fill the prescription.
Waiting sucks, especially with WebMD there to tell you that if you do not administer antibiotics immediately your child’s face will explode. But antibiotics are not magic cure-alls with no drawbacks, and some parents need to stop treating them as though they are.