By: Melissa King, DO
Get Smart About Antibiotics Week Nov 18-24
I find that I spend more time in clinic discussing with a patient and their families why they do NOT need an antibiotic then I spend on explanations with the families that do need one. Since “Get Smart About Antibiotics Week” is Nov 18-24 I figure I will share my discussion with all of you.
Infections are typically caused by viruses, bacteria, or fungus. There are a TON of viruses that we encounter every year. Viral infections are way more common than bacterial infections. Some infections we can test for a cause, such as strep pharyngitis, wound infections, urinary tract infections. However, there are many infections that we do not routinely test for a cause like ear infections, pneumonias, upper respiratory tract infections. With those infections, when I am determining treatment, I take into account your child’s symptoms, your child’s physical exam, the course of the illness, and the likelihood of a cause to determine your child’s need for antibiotics.
What infections do we treat with an antibiotic?
Bacterial infections. Viral infections will not be improved with antibiotics. There are a few viral infections that we will treat with antiviral medication, however these infections are less common then the viral infections that we only recommend supportive / symptomatic care and time.
Would it hurt anything/ anyone if we give antibiotics when they are not needed?
Yes, potentially. Antibiotics are a drug and there are always risks of an allergic reaction or side effects from the medication. Plus, with increased antibiotic usage we are seeing increased antibiotic resistance. This resistance is leading to more severe infections with fewer treatment options available.
What do you mean by supportive/ symptomatic care?
No one likes to feel miserable. (However, I also feel we have become very impatient in our hurried society and have lost site of the fact that there will be days where we need to stay home, hydrate, rest, and give our body time to heal itself, as it is designed to do.) Supportive care means supporting your body to do what it is capable of doing. Getting plenty of rest and drinking plenty of fluids to stay hydrated are a part if supportive care. Symptomatic treatment means giving your child acetaminophen or ibuprofen if they have fever or pain, giving honey if they have a cough and they are over 12 months of age, or having them gargle salt water if they have a sore throat.
Typically viral infections peak in severity within 3-5 days and symptoms resolve within 7-10 days. If your child has symptoms that are getting worse after 3-5 days or persisting more then 7-10 days then seek an evaluation with your health care provider. Seek evaluation as soon as possible if your child is refusing to drink fluids, having difficulty breathing, taking longer than 6 hours to pee or you are otherwise concerned.
Stay happy and healthy!
Dr. King is a general pediatrician in the Children’s Health Clinic at Dayton Children’s and the mother of two kids. As part of the “Dr. Mom Sqaud,” Dr. King blogs about her experiences as both as doctor and a mom and hopes to share insight to other parents on issues related to both parenting and kids health. Learn more about Dr. King!