Kids who take a round of antibiotics face a higher risk of developing an antibiotic-resistant infection according to Paul Cosford, a highly respected public health official and the medical director of Public Health England.
Citing a study by the British Medical Journal, he shared that, even though antibiotic resistance is a real threat for all age groups, the danger is especially high for children. This study looked specifically at children who had been treated for urinary tract infections caused by the E. coli bacteria and found they were 13.23 times more likely to contract a drug-resistant infection within the six months that followed if they were given antibiotics. This risk is significant compared to adults, according to Cosford.
“We’ve got good evidence that if you or I have a course of antibiotics now, within three months our risk is three times to get a resistant infection of some sort because we’ve had the antibiotics affecting all the organisms in our bodies,” he told the Guardian.
So why is there so much fuss over drug-resistant infections? To put it bluntly: They could be deadly.
The overuse of antibiotics is beginning to pose a threat to the individuals who take them and society as a whole. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the bacteria targeted by these drugs are adapting, becoming resistant to the antibiotics we have relied on so heavily for so long. An estimated 2 million people are contracting antibiotic-resistant infections each year; 23,000 of these people die.
“Parents can lower their child’s risk of antibiotic resistance by using antibiotics judiciously,” said Dr. Marnie Baker, MemorialCare Medical Group pediatrician at Saddleback Memorial Medical Center. “The use of antibiotics in a child should be a decision that is shared between a parent and the child’s pediatrician once they fully understand the risks and benefits of the antibiotic and the indication for its use.”
If you’re a parent with a sick kid, the temptation is to utilize whatever methods are available to get your child back to 100 percent, but there are many cases when aggressive treatment is not the best option.
“When your child is ill, it can be difficult for a parent to accept that the best treatment is to just wait it out, providing supportive care to their child, such as pain relief, fluids and nasal saline with suction,” Baker explained. “I think pediatricians sometimes feel the pressure from parents to get an antibiotic prescription that will somehow magically help their child get better faster.”
It is important to understand from the start what antibiotics do. These drugs treat bacterial infections only; they’re powerless against viruses, according to the CDC. If your child has a viral illness like a head cold, bronchitis or even the flu, giving them antibiotics won’t do a thing except put them at further risk for drug-resistant infections.
When your child does need an antibiotic, proper use also plays a role in the fight against drug-resistant infections.
“When an antibiotic is prescribed, it is important to complete the entire course,” said Baker. “Typically, a child will feel better within a couple days of starting the medication, leading the parent to believe it is acceptable to stop it. Some parents think it is acceptable to save some of the medication for a future illness or will give ‘leftover’ antibiotics to another family member. This can increase the chance of antibiotic resistance.”
According to Baker, an open conversation between parents and their child’s pediatrician plays an essential role in reducing the danger of antibiotic resistance. “The overuse of antibiotics is a pervasive problem, but shared decision making between a parent and their pediatrician can help reduce the inappropriate prescribing of antibiotics for viral illnesses and actually help improve the health of our precious children.”