When Do I Need Antibiotics?

It’s that time of year again! Coughing, congestion, runny noses, and scratchy throats are keeping our kids up at night. Cold and flu season is upon us. And as a parent, you want your children to recover from their illnesses as quickly as possible. But remember this phrase:

“If you have a cold or flu,
antibiotics won’t work for you!”

What is antibiotic resistance?

It is estimated that about 1 in 3 antibiotic prescriptions written are not needed. This overuse of antibiotics has led to antibiotic resistance, in which bacteria become immune to the drugs designed to kill them. This leads to the spread of dangerous infections that become very difficult to treat. Every year millions of people are diagnosed with antibiotic resistant infections. Every parent can do their part to battle this resistance by understanding the importance of appropriate antibiotic usage.

Antibiotics won’t work for viruses

There are two main types of infections, caused by either:

  1. Bacteria, or
  2. Viruses

Antibiotics only treat bacterial infections; they do not treat viral infections. Most of your child’s symptoms during the winter season are caused by viruses, and therefore cannot be treated with antibiotics, including:

  • Colds
  • Influenza
  • Most sore throats
  • Many sinus and ear infections

In these cases, antibiotics are NOT the answer to treat your child’s symptoms. Not only are antibiotics ineffective against viruses, but they also have the potential to cause many negative side effects.

How to relieve viral symptoms

Appropriate treatments for viral coughs and colds are:

  • Sinus rinses
  • Nasal suctioning
  • Over-the-counter pain meds (if your child is of appropriate age)
  • Extra fluids
  • Extra rest

When should antibiotics be used?

Infections that require antibiotics for treatment are strep throat (confirmed by a positive strep test) and bacterial sinus or ear infections. If you have concerns that your child may have a bacterial infection, you should schedule an appointment with your pediatric provider. Your provider will discuss with you whether your child has symptoms and/or exam findings concerning for a bacterial infection and if antibiotics are needed.

For more information, watch this video about antibiotic resistance:

You can read more about Antibiotic Awareness Week at:

Photo credit: Cover photo created by evening_tao – www.freepik.com

Categories: Antibiotics
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