By Emily Murray
As the weather cools, kids are back in school and germs are plentiful. For most of us, if our kids get sick, we think we are doing the right thing by getting them to the doctor as soon as we can. A new study however may be a wake up call for how we treat kids with antibiotics and will highlight the damage we may unknowingly be creating by filling those antibiotic prescriptions.
According to this new study, U.S. pediatricians write more than 10 million unnecessary antibiotic prescriptions each year. While this number in fact sounds shocking, it was based on looking at a representative sample of nearly 65,000 outpatient visits of those under 18-years-old between the years 2006 to 2008. Proving that we must start taking a closer look at antibiotic usage in the nation’s youth.
Antibiotics are undoubtedly a medical marvel which began with the discovery of penicillin by Alexander Fleming in 1928. Today they come in a variety of types but one thing remains constant, when overused, they become less effective.
So what exactly constitutes as unnecessary prescribing?
Essentially it’s important to remember that antibiotics are only effective in fighting bacterial infections. The results of this study discovered that not only were antibiotics being prescribed for bacterial infections, but for sicknesses like bronchitis, flu allergies and asthma, clearly conditions that can see little to no improvement by taking antibiotics. Nearly one quarter of those involved in the study fell into this category. In fact, there is actually damage being done by unnecessarily prescribing antibiotics in these situations.
Aside from having children develop a tolerance to certain antibiotics, there is another danger as well. Most often doctors prescribe “broad spectrum” types of these antibiotics in order to wipe out whatever is wrong. Unfortunately, these often end up killing not just bad bacteria, but good bacteria as well.
So what can you do as a parent? Well, it’s at least something to be aware of. Of course if your child is sick, you still want to take them to the doctor but perhaps you can begin paying closer attention to why antibiotics are being prescribed. If the pediatrician is not sure the exact cause of the sickness, it may be worthwhile to try the “wait and see approach,” where if it is not going away on it’s own, another trip to the doctor’s office may be in order.