I'm worried about the overuse of antibiotics. How do I know if my child really needs them?
Although antibiotics have proven to be an extremely important health advance in the last century, their overuse could create bacterial resistance and ultimately limit their worth. It's wonderful that parents are becoming more aware that antibiotics should be used only when needed for certain childhood illnesses.
In the past, antibiotics were commonly used for ear infections and sinusitis. However, many children can now be observed safely while they fight off the infection without antibiotics—which may do more harm than good when used unnecessarily.
In general, the following are instances when a child is more likely to need antibiotics:
- For certain illnesses in children at a younger age (less than 2 years, and particularly less than 6 months)
- For persistent symptoms such as fever, ear pain or sinus drainage after a period of watchful waiting
- For some proven bacterial infections such as strep throat, whooping cough or urinary tract infection
- For certain pneumonias
If your doctor prescribes an antibiotic, it is also important to:
- Give your child the exact amount of the medicine for the correct number of doses
- Throw away any remaining medication unless instructed otherwise
- Keep any follow-up appointments, such as an ear re-check or chest X-ray