Kids Health Matters: Using antibiotics wisely

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Wednesday, November 20, 2019

WILMINGTON, Del. (WPVI) -- Winter infections are just beginning to the make the rounds, with lots of sick days ahead.

Parents want their youngsters to get well as quickly as possible.

But prescription medication isn't always the best answer.

It's a fact of childhood - babies and toddlers get up to 10 colds a year.

Kindergartners can get a dozen!

And then there are ear infections.

Parents often ask their doctors for antibiotics.

But Dr. Craig Shapiro, an infectious disease specialist at Nemours duPont Hospital, says, maybe not -

"Antibiotics only treat bacteria, they don't treat viruses," says Dr. Shapiro.

He watches over antibiotic use at Nemours, to make sure patients get the right drug for their illnesses.

If the medication's wrong, not only won't a child get well, it can cause serious problems.

"Antibiotics are the most common class of medication to cause allergic reactions and to cause emergency room visits for children," he says.

Another concern: because of decades of drug overuse, more & more bacteria are now drug-resistant.

"So when we do need them, the bacteria are no longer susceptible to them," he says.

A recent CDC report says every 15 minutes, someone in America dies of an antibiotic-resistant infection.

That's about twice the rate previously believed.

Dr. Shapiro works closely with the hospital's pharmacy, and other doctors, making sure drugs are used properly, to prevent resistance.

New tests to diagnose infections sooner help determine who needs antibiotics and who doesn't.

He says control is a must, because very few antibiotics are coming to market, and most aren't available for children - at least not right away.

"It can be many years before a new antibiotic is available for children," he notes.

Dr. Shapiro says prescription levels among children have come down, but until they do for adults, too, drug resistance will still be a threat.