Some parents think that if their child is sick, they need an antibiotic. It’s sad to say but some parents actually get angry with their health provider when told a prescription isn’t needed for their child’s cold, sore throat or ear ache.

We want to help parents to understand how MVP Kids Care professionals decide when an antibiotic is – or is not – needed. Please read this important information and be aware of both the serious risk of improper antibiotic use, and the increasing problem with antibiotic resistance in children.

  1. Two types of germs typically cause infections – bacteria and viruses. Antibiotics are usually used to treat bacterial infections. If your child has a viral infection, antibiotics won’t help. Did you know that colds, coughs, sore throats, and even green mucus are frequently caused by viruses? There is no medical miracle cure for virus-caused illnesses: children recover when the virus runs its course.
  1. A trained medical professional is the best person to determine whether an illness is caused by a virus or bacteria. While parents use rationale like “my other child has the same symptoms” or “my son had this before and the urgent care center gave him an antibiotic” to justify their request for an antibiotic, our medical decision-making is based on science and experience. In our opinion, it is usually better to be cautious, rather than expose children to the risk of improper antibiotic exposure.
  1. The risks are real! There are negative side-effects of taking antibiotics, even when they are needed to treat a bacterial infection. Common side-effects are diarrhea and allergic reactions.
  1. A more serious risk of frequent antibiotic use is: antibiotic resistance. You may have heard about “stubborn” bacteria that antibiotics can’t kill any more. Each year in the United States, at least 2 million people become infected with bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics and at least 23,000 people die each year as a direct result of these infections. It’s been called public health’s ticking time bomb because resistant bacteria are being discovered faster than new, more powerful antibiotics.

If your child is sick, but your health provider tells you it is a virus, make sure you still take the symptoms seriously. Make sure your child has plenty of fluids and rest. If they do not get better in 2-3 days, call MVP Kids Care. Sometimes viral illnesses, like colds, weaken our immune systems. Worsening symptoms may be a sign that your child is developing another illness. You may have experienced, or know of a situation, where a child is seen by a health provider and the parent is told it’s just a cold. Days later the child develops strep or another serious illness. This situation doesn’t prove that the first provider “missed” the serious illness, it just means that over time, other germs took advantage of the child’s weakened immune system.

As always if you have questions or concerns, please let us know. We want parents to be our partners in keeping kids healthy, so understanding and being comfort with our care philosophy of watchful-waiting is important!

By Michelle Howland, PA