Antibiotic Use for Children- When is it Necessary?

1Bayhealth Physician Offers Advice for Caregivers :

Anyone who’s ever taken care of a child knows that when kids get sick, it’s stressful. Children might not be able to tell us how they feel. We worry about missing work or school. And those sad little faces can be heartbreaking. When kids have a sore throat, cough, or runny nose, parents and caregivers often go to the pediatrician and hope for a prescription. But most of the time, kids don’t need a prescription. Those antibiotics can actually do more harm than good. Bryan Villar, MD, of Bayhealth Family Practice of Georgetown, helps explain some of the most common misbeliefs about antibiotics and children.

A virus is a sickness that cannot be cured by antibiotics.

Most of the time when we see pediatric patients with cold or flu symptoms, they have a virus, not a bacterial infection. Parents can help their child feel better by offering fluids like water and juice, and by using Tylenol, Motrin, or Advil to keep fevers down. Most colds and flus are viruses. Chest congestion and sinus congestion are usually caused by viruses.

Antibiotics will not help your child get well faster.

Viruses run for 3-5 days, typically. The only thing we can do for a virus is make children comfortable and let them rest. If your child has symptoms that last for several days, she may have a bacterial infection. This can happen when the immune system is weakened from a virus. Please call your health provider.

Physicians cannot prescribe antibiotics over the phone.

It’s important for me and for all doctors to see patients in person. Every child is different. I need to see your child so I can make the best recommendation for treatment. If you are worried about your child, make an appointment. Don’t wait until the weekend.

Antibiotics can cause problems if they are prescribed when they are not needed.

If your child takes antibiotics often, she can become resistant to them. If she has a more serious illness later on, it may be difficult for your provider to find the appropriate medicine to give. The best medication for your child’s illness may not work because she has built up a resistance to it.

Strong antibiotics can cause side effects. Your child may have nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.

Thousands of people get hospital-acquired infections each year. These infections are resistant to most antibiotics and cause many deaths. A recent study showed that antibiotic-resistant infections are happening more often in children. Some sicknesses that were able to be treated with medication at home in the past now require hospital stays and more serious treatments.

If you are worried about your sick child, call your primary care provider.

Parents often check online for health advice. They may read blogs written by people without medical training. Your child’s primary care provider is the best person to talk to when you are concerned about your child’s health. Your primary care provider will make it a priority to see you when your child is sick. You know your child better than anyone else does! If something is wrong, please call. If you need a health care provider, please call 1-888-BAY-DOCS or 1-888-229-3627. You can also search for a provider on

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