Taking antibiotics for colds and other viral illnesses not only won't work, but also has a dangerous side effect: over time, this practice helps create bacteria that have become more of a challenge to kill.
Frequent and inappropriate use of antibiotics can cause bacteria or other microbes to resist the effects of antibiotic treatment. This is called bacterial resistance or antibiotic resistance. Treating these resistant bacteria requires higher doses of medicine or stronger antibiotics. Because of antibiotic overuse, certain bacteria have become resistant to some of the most powerful antibiotics available today.
Antibiotic resistance is a widespread problem, and one that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) calls "one of the world's most pressing public health problems." Bacteria that were once highly responsive to antibiotics have become increasingly resistant. Among those that are becoming harder to treat are pneumococcal infections (which cause pneumonia, ear infections, sinus infections, and meningitis), skin infections, and tuberculosis.
Taking Antibiotics Safely
So what should you do when your child gets sick? To minimize the risk of bacterial resistance, keep these tips in mind:
Treat only bacterial infections.Seek advice and ask questions. Letting milder illnesses (especially those thought to be caused by viruses) run their course to avoid the development of drug-resistant germs may be a good idea — but it's still best to leave what constitutes a "mild illness" up to your doctor. Even if the symptoms don't worsen but linger, take your child to the doctor. At the office, ask questions about whether your child's illness is bacterial or viral, and discuss the risks and benefits of antibiotics. If it's a virus, don't pressure your doctor to prescribe antibiotics, but ask about ways to treat symptoms.
If your child is prescribed antibiotics be sure to: