Antibiotics and other drugs for infections were filled 91 percent of the time, versus 65 percent of prescriptions for vitamins and minerals, for example.
"When your child has an ear infection and is in pain, you have much more of a sense of urgency," [lead researcher Dr. Rachael] Zweigoron [of the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston] said. But if a doctor recommends a vitamin D or iron supplement, she added, parents might not see the immediate need.
That raises the question of whether parents always know why a pediatrician has prescribed a medication or supplement. "Are we, as pediatricians, doing a good enough job of explaining the importance to parents?" Zweigoron said.
The findings, which appear in the journal Pediatrics, are based on 4,833 kids seen over two years at two clinics connected to Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago.
All of the children were on Medicaid, the government health insurance program for the poor. So it's not clear if the findings would be the same for U.S. kids with private insurance.