Every year, families face their share of colds and/or the flu. As concerned parents we take our sick children to the doctor, and are often surprised or confused when we are not given a prescription to get them antibiotics. But your doctor could be doing you and your child a favour by not prescribing antibiotics.
Antibiotics1 are powerful medicines that fight infections caused by bacteria. They either kill bacteria or stop them from reproducing. The body’s immune system then is able to fight the infection successfully. Used properly, antibiotics can save lives.
Antibiotics do not fight infections caused by viruses, such as colds and the flu. If a virus is making your child sick, giving her/him antibiotics may do more harm than good. Each time your child takes antibiotics, the chances increase that bacteria that cause infections will be able to resist them the next time you give them to your child for an actual bacterial infection. Antibiotics can also cause vomiting and diarrhoea in children.
When should antibiotics be used2?
Only bacterial infections should be treated with antibiotics. If the doctor prescribes antibiotics make sure that you:
• Use the antibiotics as prescribed
• Give all the antibiotics to your child even if they seem better
• Don’t save antibiotics for a possible infection in the future
• Never use antibiotics prescribed for another child.
Antibiotics are only effective against a bacterial infection if all the medicine is taken. Antibiotics also take time to become effective. Don’t expect your child to feel better after taking the first dose. Most children take 1 to 2 days to feel a lot better.
Never give antibiotics that were prescribed for another family member or adult to your child. Doses for children of different ages vary, and the types of antibiotics prescribed will also vary.
Doctors are aware of the increase in resistance of bacteria to antibiotics and are trying to solve the problem. New antibiotics might be on the horizon, but antibiotics will continue to need to be prescribed and used appropriately.
Reviewed by Dr. Yamini Durani MD, November 2011