By Lauren S. Matthews, MD, pediatrician with Lexington Pediatric Practice, a Lexington Medical Center physician practice
When a child is sick, many parents go to the pediatrician thinking their little one needs an antibiotic. But antibiotics will only help certain types of illness. And using them too much can be a bad idea.There are two major types of germs that make people sick: viruses and bacteria. While both can cause diseases with similar symptoms, the way that they multiply and spread are different.
Antibiotics are life-saving drugs that work by killing bacteria. Common bacterial infections include strep throat, whooping cough, and some pneumonias, sinus infections, and ear infections.
Antibiotics are not needed for common illnesses like colds, most sore throats and the flu. Viruses cause these illnesses most often. Using antibiotics for viruses will not cure the infection, will not help your child feel better and will not keep others from catching the illness.Sometimes, distinguishing between a bacterial infection and a viral condition can be difficult. Many aspects of the clinical history, symptoms and signs are similar. There are guidelines to help physicians determine which seems most likely. The most common way to distinguish between a virus and bacteria is duration. Symptoms of viral illnesses generally get better after five to seven days. Symptoms that persist more than 10 days or worsen usually suggest a bacterial illness.
Antibiotics must be used wisely to preserve their strength for future bacterial illnesses. Unfortunately, bacteria are getting smarter. Some bacteria are becoming resistant to first-line antibiotics, but we often do not know that until a child fails to get better on the initial antibiotic. In these instances, a second antibiotic may also be needed.
Long-term overuse of antibiotics results in antibiotic-resistant bacteria. These bacteria are much stronger and harder to kill. They can cause severe illnesses that may require stronger treatments and even hospitalizations.
When your child is sick, parents and physicians want to do everything they can to help them feel better as quickly as possible, but antibiotics are not always the answer. Supportive care with over-the-counter medications that target your child’s specific symptoms may be most helpful. Pain relievers, fever reducers, warm compresses, liquids, humidifiers and plenty of rest can all help your child feel better.
And a dose of simple advice goes a long way. Make sure your children wash their hands frequently, stay up to date on immunizations, and keep them home from school when they are sick.
Lexington Pediatric Practice has board-certified physicians, caring nurses and staff members who are focused on providing the best care possible for your child. The staff puts your child’s care as the top priority with kid-friendly labs, vaccines and treatments at two convenient locations in Lexington and West Columbia.
3240 Sunset Boulevard
West Columbia, SC 29169