In many cases, doctors prescribe antibiotics to children, but most of the time, those viruses don’t even respond to antibiotics, a study finds.
When you have a cold, or a headache, there’s a good chance you might just shrug it off, or fight it with an aspirin or some Tylenol – but if your child is suffering, the odds are you might want something better for him. Yet often times, you’re not really helping children by giving them antibiotics. A research conducted by Seattle Children’s Hospital found that a mere 27 percent of acute respiratory tract infections are caused by bacteria. This means that in almost 3 out of 4 cases, antibiotics don’t do anything to help.
But doctors prescribed antibiotics 57 percent of the time. In other words, at least 30 percent of all children received an unnecessary treatment, which may very well harm them in the long run, because of side effects and the increased risk of antibiotic resistance – both at a personal and at a global level.
In the US alone, that’s an estimated 11 million potentially needless prescriptions each year. But there’s a problem with this – in most cases, it’s hard for doctors to tell when antibiotics are needed and when they are not. Aside for the strep test, there’s no way of telling (in reasonable time) if the child is suffering from a bacterial infection or not; basically, doctors have to guess.
Naturally, people don’t want anyone taking guesses with their children, especially when it comes to diseases, so they (and doctors as well) prefer to go for the safe route, administering antibiotics.
The doctor’s personal skill might play a role here, in discerning the cause of the infection, but that’s not always possible. However, some things are more likely to be viral than others. This study recommends that bronchitis, upper-respiratory infections, sore throats and ear infections in children over age 2 would be good candidates for waiting a bit before prescribing antibiotics
Journal Reference: Matthew P. Kronman, MD, MSCE, Chuan Zhou, PhD, and Rita Mangione-Smith, MD, MPH. Bacterial Prevalence and Antimicrobial Prescribing Trends for Acute Respiratory Tract Infections. (doi: 10.1542/peds.2014-0605)
Andrei's background is in geophysics, and he's been fascinated by it ever since he was a child. Feeling that there is a gap between scientists and the general audience, he started ZME Science -- and the results are what you see today.