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The Scoop on Antibiotics

Antibiotics can do wonders knocking out bacteria from ear infections, strep throat, and other illnesses so kids feel better faster. But while antibiotics are a helpful tool, misuse can make them harmful. And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warn about the overuse of antibiotics and the growing problem of antibiotic resistance -- a situation in which certain bacteria are no longer responsive to antibiotics. To help keep your child healthy and avoid contributing to the antibiotic resistance problem, it's crucial to use antibiotics safely and smartly. Here are seven ways to do that:

  1. Realize that not all illnesses require antibiotics. Antibiotics should be used to cure bacterial infections like ear infections or strep throat, but they don't work against viral infections like a cold or the flu.
  2. Don't pressure your pediatrician to prescribe. When your child is sick, it can be tempting to press for antibiotics thinking that the medication will help your child feel better sooner. But if your doctor explains that your child has a virus and won't benefit from antibiotics, don't pressure him to prescribe them.
  3. Contact your doctor if your child isn't getting any better. If your child isn't benefiting from his antibiotic, consult your doctor. It could be that that particular drug is resistant to the bacteria your child has. Or, at times, a viral infection can precipitate a bacterial infection. If this happens, your pediatrician may then decide to prescribe an antibiotic. (Note: Prescribing one for the viral infection wouldn't have prevented the bacterial infection.)
  4. Finish each prescription. Don't stop doling out the medicine if your child's symptoms disappear. Even if your child feels better, it's important to finish out the prescription so that the bacteria don't gain regain their strength.
  5. Follow the directions. Dispense antibiotics exactly as instructed by your doctor or pharmacist. Be sure to store them properly and take care not to miss a dose.
  6. Don't share antibiotics. Never give your child (or yourself!) medicine that was prescribed for another person or medicine that was prescribed for an earlier illness.
  7. Call your doctor if you suspect an allergy. Symptoms such as hives, puffy lips, or trouble breathing can indicate an allergic reaction. Stop the medication and call your pediatrician immediately.

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.