Most of the time a child is sick, he or she does not need an antibiotic. The vast majority of childhood illness are caused by viruses, which do not respond to antibiotics. If your child has a virus, antibiotics cannot make them better.  Viral illnesses include all colds as well as the flu and most cases of sore throat, cough and bronchitis. Even many sinus and ear infections will go away on their own if given time. Still, parents often want an antibiotic when their child is ill. It is important to realize that taking antibiotics when they are not truly needed puts your child’s health and the health of the community at risk. Here are a few reasons why:

  • Antibiotics, like all medications, have side effects. Any time a child takes one, they are at risk for side effects ranging from mild diarrhea to something as serious as a life threatening allergic reaction.
  • Antibiotics increase the chance of a resistant infection in the future. This means that patients who take antibiotics are more likely to have an infection that won’t respond to antibiotics in the future.
  • This antibiotic resistance affects the entire community. The rate of antibiotic resistant infections like MRSA has increased rapidly over recent years as a direct result of overuse of antibiotics. Anyone can come in contact with these bacteria, not just those who have taken antibiotics themselves.

For most illnesses, rest, fluids, comfort care and time are all that your child needs to make a full recovery. For more information, please check out the AAP website for parents.

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