The Doctor Is In… Antibiotic overuse – how much is too much?
By Lorry Frankel, M.D., Chair, Department of Pediatrics
With school sports going at full speed or your high school graduate now living in his or her first dorm room, you may be concerned with staph, MRSA (methicillin resistant staphylococcus aureus), or meningitis infections. In the 1940s, when antibiotics were first discovered, they were a miracle medication, saving the lives of many. But, over the years many bacterial infections have become more and more resistant to antibiotics, in large part because of the misuse and overprescription of antibiotics for viral infections such as colds, flu, and sore throats. Viral infections do not respond to antibiotics.
How much is too much?
Prescribing antibiotics for a runny nose, green mucus, and, in some cases, ear infections can be too much. It’s important to always check with your pediatrician when your child has an illness or something that looks like an infection. Only your physician can determine when or when not to prescribe antibiotics. To help keep antibiotics working at their full potential, it’s important that parents understand that in many cases antibiotics are not necessary and in the long run may do more harm than good. By following some simple guidelines, you can help keep antibiotics safe now and for future generations.
- Never pressure your physician for antibiotics.
- If prescribed an antibiotic, ask your doctor if it’s necessary.
- Always use antibiotics as prescribed, completing the entire course. Never save antibiotics for use “next time.”
- Encourage hand washing.
- Keep sick kids home from day care or school.
- Keep antibacterial soap use to a minimum.
- Don't apply over-the-counter antibacterial cream on every cut or scrape.
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