Does my child need antibiotics?
A doctor explains when antibiotics should (and shouldn’t) be prescribed.
Parents are not always sure of the circumstances under which a doctor should prescribe antibiotics. Sometimes, doctors have even been known to prescribe antibiotics to a child because of pressure from the parents, rather than for appropriate medical reasons. Over-prescription of antibiotics may lead to other medical problems. Here’s a local emergency room doctor’s take on when and why a doctor should prescribe antibiotics for your child:

Lilla, a practising ER doctor says:

“Antibiotics are only the answer if an infection is bacterial. Viral infections require antivirals in very rare occasions (such as swine flu where we used Tamiflu or shingles where we use acyclovir - not common in kids though). Most of the time, the body sorts out viral infections on its own for example the common cold, measles and even the dreaded RSV bronchopneumonia. Pneumonia (the word) terrifies parents, but most of the time it is completely self-limiting and no treatment works. If there is respiratory distress, the kid needs admission for oxygen, but not much more than that.

We give antibiotics only where there is a clear bacterial focus of infection:
  • Otitis media
  • Follicular tonsillitis
  • UTI (bladder infection
  • Bacterial gastro
  • Bacterial pneumonia 
  • And when we see a purulent post nasal drip
When there is doubt, we take blood and an increase in white cells (specifically neutrophils) and CRP (an infection marker) will point to a bacterial infection in which case antibiotics might also be

Double-check with your doctor

Most of the time, however, we treat symptoms since infections are viral. This includes: nose drops, cough meds, maybe cortisone, zinc (a major fighter of viral infections) and we treat the fever - if necessary.

And we use our judgement. If I see a kid, I can tell within the first 2 minutes whether he/she needs admission. Kids are that clear cut. They're either as sick as dogs or well enough to go home”.

Parent24 reader and mom-to-be Lilla is a practising ER doctor and enthusiast for all things medical. She's also a fan of dogs and cats.

Disclaimer: The views of authors and experts published on Parent24 are their own and therefore do not necessarily represent the views of Parent24.

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