Prescription for Trouble: Why Too Many Antibiotics Aren't Good for Kids

Overuse of antibiotics like these has led to a new breed of superbugs -- and made a lot of childhood illnesses increasingly tough to treat. Learn how to protect your family.

Marko Metzinger

Every night for a week I set my alarm clock for 2 a.m. so I can wake my 3-year-old daughter, Devon, for yet another dose of her "icky" medicine. I sit on her, clamp her arms down, pinch her nose shut, and slowly squirt a teaspoon of thick, greenish-yellow liquid into her mouth. We repeat this wrestling match every six hours. I feel like the worst mommy in the world.

Unfortunately, there's no better option. Devon has a recurring urinary-tract infection (UTI) caused by bacteria that are resistant to most antibiotics. It only responds to one oral drug that's approved for kids a liquid with a taste, texture, and odor that cherry flavoring can't disguise. I worry what will happen if the bacteria eventually become resistant to that antibiotic too.

Before Devon got sick, I knew that misusing antibiotics could lead to the evolution of so-called superbugs, but I didn't really think about those germs striking my family. Now I know better. "Although we talk about antibiotic resistance as a public-health issue, it's an individual child who gets an infection," says Arjun Srinivasan, M.D., a medical epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

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