Researchers looked at 65,000 outpatient cases, involving children 17 and younger. The medical visits all took place from 2006 to 2008. They discovered that antibiotics were prescribed in one out of five cases, most often for respiratory illnesses.
While the majority of the prescriptions were for bacterial infections, and antibiotics were justified, fully one quarter of the antibiotics prescribed were for illnesses like bronchitis, the flu, asthma and allergies; against which the medication is completely ineffective.
According to Adam Hersh of the University of Utah, “One reason overuse occurs is because the diagnosis is often unclear – this is common with ear infections. The decision is made to prescribe an antibiotic even though the diagnosis isn’t certain, just to be on the safe side.”
Part of the problem with this practice is that antibiotics will eliminate all of the bacteria in the body, even the good stuff. The loss of intestinal bacteria leaves patients in a compromised state and more susceptible to aggressive infection. There is also some research that suggests the loss of digestive bacteria may be linked to asthma and obesity.
Parents need to ask questions, to avoid unnecessary medications putting their children at risk. Find out why the medication is being prescribed and how certain the diagnosis is.
“If the diagnosis is still a little unclear,” Hersh says, “ask if it would be safe to wait a day or two with close follow up rather than starting the antibiotic right away.”
Antibiotics are great. They save a lot of lives. Let’s keep it that way, by only using them when they’re warranted. – Jen R, Staff Writer
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