Raising Healthy Kids: Antibiotics overuse

Click play to watch the report from Action News' Erin O'Hearn
April 10, 2014 12:26:34 PM PDT
Ever since Alexander Fleming's chance discovery led to the creation of the first antibiotic, the drugs have saved millions of lives.

Bacterial infections which used to be deadly could be tamed.

70 years later, however, we're in danger from using too much of a good thing.

"The germs are gaining ground, and we are losing our antibiotics," Dr. Theo Zaoutis an infection expert at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, said.

Dr. Zaoutis says antibiotic resistance is now an everyday threat because these wonder drugs are being overused.

"About 50% of antibiotics are used inappropriately or not correctly," Zaoutis said.

When people take the wrong antibiotic, or don't take enough to wipe out all the bacteria, the survivors change genetically, making that drug less and less effective.

That also happens when someone doesn't need an antibiotic at all, because they have a viral illness, such as: colds, flu, most coughs and bronchitis, stomach flu, or sore throats not caused by strep bacteria.

Although antibiotic use is down, Dr. Zaoutis says it's still too high.

But three questions by parents in the doctor's office can help:

  • Do you think this is a virus or a bacteria?
  • Is this the best antibiotic for my child?
  • Is anything going to happen to Johnny or Mary if I wait two days and we see how they do?

    It can take 10 years or more to develop a new antibiotic.

    The doctor says protecting the effectiveness of the drugs we have can save even more lives.


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