This is “Get Smart About Antibiotics Week” at the CDC. If you are a regular reader of this blog, then this is just “preaching to the choir!” Nevertheless, there are important points to remember:
Colds and many other upper respiratory infections, as well as some ear infections, are caused by viruses, not bacteria. If antibiotics are used too often for things they can’t treat—like colds or other viral infections—they can stop working effectively against bacteria when you or your child really needs them. Antibiotic resistance—when antibiotics can no longer cure bacterial infections—has been a concern for years and is considered one of the world’s most critical public health threats.
The article goes on to discuss the do’s and don’t’s regarding viral illnesses and antibiotics.
Pediatricians and most other primary care doctors have been aware for years of the dangers of antibiotic resistance caused by the overuse of antibiotics. (It is not the individual who receives the antibiotic who becomes resistant but, rather, the bacteria in the community that become resistant to the antibiotic. Thus, antibiotic resistance affects all of us!) We have also all seen terrible side effects from these medications — severe diarrhea and skin rashes mostly. For these reasons, most of us are very careful to prescribe them only when needed. However, we frequently feel like we are swimming upstream when we see how freely the local urgicare centers prescribe antibiotics. Very few pediatric patients who are taken by their parents to one of these doc-in-the-boxes leave there without an antibiotic! I know they may be more convenient at times, but the threshold for prescribing antibiotics is staggeringly low at these places, causing more problems and inconvenience in the long run. It is only one of many frustrations we feel as we try to establish our offices as your child’s “medical home.”
Read the CDC feature on antibiotics here.