When Antibiotics Are Not The Answer
Antibiotics only kill bacteria. They're great for ear infections, sinus infections and strep throat. But they have no effect on viruses. And viruses are the cause of almost all colds, coughs, vomiting and diarrhea. Viruses also cause 90% of sore throats. So the fact is, antibiotics are not helpful for the majority of your child's infections and fevers.
Unfortunately, antibiotics are overused. Research shows that half the prescriptions written for antibiotics are not necessary. As a result, many bacteria are now resistant to antibiotics that used to control them. When we turn to newer and more expensive antibiotics, bacteria can develop resistance to them as well. In the battle between antibiotics and bacteria, the bacteria seem to be winning.
If your child doesn't need an antibiotic, there's another reason for not giving one. All antibiotics have side effects. Many children taking antibiotics develop diarrhea, nausea or vomiting. About 8% develop a rash. Then your doctor must decide if the rash is truly an allergic reaction to the drug or if it is an unrelated rash from a virus (such as roseola). If we're not sure, then we can't use that antibiotic any more for your child. So don't wish your child was on an antibiotic unless he really needs it.
In summary, if your child has a viral illness, an antibiotic will not help the fever or other symptoms. Antibiotics will not get your child back to school or you back to work any sooner. When it's a viral infection, antibiotics are not the answer. If you have other questions about antibiotics, consult your healthcare provider.
Disclaimer: This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. It is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information.
Author and Senior Reviewer: Barton D. Schmitt, M.D. FAAP
Last Review: 6/1/2008
Last Revised: 6/1/2000
Copyright 1994-2008 Barton Schmitt, M.D. Parent Advice Messages.