What Parents Should Know About Antibiotics For Kids

For parents of sick children, antibiotics can be a godsend. They are powerful, effective and vital to overall health for patients of all ages, and have been used for decades to attack bacteria that that put us under the weather. However, if not used properly, antibiotics can actually be harmful to your child.

Most infections are caused by either bacteria or viruses. It can be confusing to figure out what the difference is and what it means for your child’s health. Generally speaking, viruses are the culprit of most coughs and sore throats, and are also the triggers for common colds and influenza. Most of your run-of-the-mill illnesses are caused by viruses and cannot be treated with antibiotics. Viral infections typically run their own course, usually with some form of medication to help ease symptoms like aches and pains, fever, or cough.

Bacteria are often at the root of more discomforting infections, like strep throat and infections of the ear, sinuses or urinary tract. Most bacterial infections can be treated with proper use of antibiotics.

It’s difficult to pinpoint an exact definition for antibiotics because there are so many kinds – one used to treat strep throat isn’t the same one used to treat a sinus infection, for example. However, all antibiotics have one goal: To kill the bacteria making your child sick. Unfortunately, our bodies are often smarter than modern medicine and they have learned to adjust to countless environmental changes over the centuries. Antibiotics are no exception.

Because antibiotics fight living organisms, it’s difficult for them to keep up with the changing forms that these micro-organisms take in our bodies. This means there are new strains of bacteria that have become resistant to some of the more common antibiotics. Resistant bacteria can spread just as infections can. The most common cause of this strain of resistance is repeated or improper use of antibiotics. People are treated in hospitals every year for infections of resistant bacteria.

Fortunately, there are fairly simple ways to prevent such an infection in your child. Don’t treat their viral infections with antibiotics, for example. Not only will antibiotics prove useless in a fight against virus, the needless use of the meds could leave resistant bacteria behind to grow and multiply. Make sure your child practices good hygiene to prevent the spread of infection. Encourage proper hand-washing and food handling.

Perhaps most importantly: Make sure your child takes the medicine as prescribed by the doctor; never share or accept antibiotics with others; and make sure that all the medication is taken, even when the symptoms are gone. It can be tempting to stop meds when your child appears well and healthy, but it’s important to deplete the supply to ensure that all the sneaky bacteria have been killed. Just because your child appears well doesn’t mean there aren’t some of those leftover microorganisms lurking behind. Make sure you attack them all.

Antibiotics have been faithful fighters against illnesses for decades, and that still holds true. Although our bodies continue to find ways to stand triumphant against them, antibiotics still hold their own in the battle. That said, we must make sure that as we treat an existing illness, we also prevent a future one.

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