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Bacterial Infections 101

hands cupping water under faucet

Get your little one get back on track faster by learning how to recognize the symptoms of a bacterial infection, when to call a healthcare provider, and which treatment options are right for your child. According to Wendy L. Wright, a family nurse practitioner based in New Hampshire, these tips will help:

It's Time to See the Doctor When...

  • Your child is vomiting and has not urinated for six to eight hours
  • A cold lingers for seven to 10 days and is not improving
  • Your child's fever reaches a 102 degrees or higher
  • Any child under 6 months of age has a fever
  • Your child is lethargic or is not consolable

How to Treat the Infection

  • If the infection is bacterial, your child may be prescribed an antibiotic to fight the illness. Be sure to listen to your healthcare provider's suggestions because antibiotics are essential for bacterial infections, but are not appropriate for viral infections. "Studies have shown that when providers suspect that the patient wants an antibiotic, they are more willing to give it to them even when a viral infection is likely," says Wright.
  • Be sure your child finishes the full course of antibiotics to ensure a complete recovery from the infection and reduce the risk of antibiotic resistance.
  • Talk to your healthcare provider about choosing the most effective antibiotic for your child. If you are having difficulty with the frequency of the dosing schedule, the antibiotic's taste, or keeping your antibiotic refrigerated, there are other options. You could get once-daily dosing, a more palatable antibiotic, or one that doesn't need refrigeration.
  • Remember, medication may be ineffective if not taken as prescribed.

5 Ways to Prevent Bacterial Infections

  1. Wash your hands and your child's hands with soap and water before eating and after using the restroom. "Most antibacterial soap is ineffective as most bacteria are now resistant," says Wright. "We recommend simple hand washing for 20 seconds."
  2. Pack a pocket-sized antibacterial hand sanitizer in your child's book bag.
  3. Clean open cuts or scrapes with soap and water.
  4. Teach your child to always cover his or her mouth when coughing or sneezing.
  5. To prevent the spread of illness, keep your child home from school for one or two days, if possible.

If you think your child may have a bacterial infection, visit to your healthcare provider. The sooner illness is detected, correctly diagnosed, and appropriately treated, the better chance of a good outcome.

Source: Wendy L. Wright, RN, ARNP, FNP, FAANP

Originally published on AmericanBaby.com, November 2006.

All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.