Antibiotics and Children: 9 Things You Need To Know

Antibiotics is a type of medicine used to treat all types of infections and has been discussed in the news recently. There are a variety of different antibiotics which are designed to fight specific types of infection and there is also broad-range antibiotics which is designed to prevent general infection. One of the main misconceptions around antibiotics is that it can be used to treat pretty much anything and that is simply not the case. In fact we now have antibiotic-resistant diseases due to the misuse of antibiotics. When it comes to your child’s health, it is important for you to know if antibiotics is the right choice, what they actually do and what you need to look out for. Below are answers to some common questions around antibiotics for children.   Can Antibiotics Cure Colds? No. It really is as simple as that, mainly because a cold is a virus, and antibiotics treat bacterial infections. If your child has a really bad cold you might take them to see a doctor, but they aren’t likely to prescribe antibiotics. Instead, they are more likely to recommend you keep them hydrated, and potentially giving some over the counter cold medicines designed for children to relieve their symptoms. For advice on treating colds at home, you can read our blog here.   Can A Cold Turn Into A Bacterial Infection? While in some cases a cold can turn into an infection, it’s very rare, since bacterial infections don’t usually follow on from viral infections. In fact, if you’re using antibiotics to treat a cold on the ‘off-chance’ that it develops into an infection, you’re much more likely to cause an infection, because you’re contributing to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in your child. Not only that, but you’re exposing your child to all the unpleasant side effects antibiotics can have (like diarrhoea and nausea) for no reason. You really only want to use antibiotics if you know an infection is present and it has been prescribed by a doctor.   Will Antibiotics Treat A Sore Throat? Most sore throats can be treated at home with over the counter cold, flu and throat medicines you can buy in any supermarket or pharmacy. A runny nose, sore throat and barky cough on their own generally aren’t enough to warrant a course of antibiotics, and will go away on their own in time. The only time antibiotics would be prescribed to treat a sore throat is if it was caused by group A streptococci, otherwise known as ‘strep throat’. Viruses cause around 90% of sore throats, but children between 5 and 15 much more susceptible to strep infections than adults. If the cough has been going on for a while you should take your child to the doctor, who will be able to test for strep throat and prescribe antibiotics if needed. Otherwise, it’s home remedies all the way.   What About Ear Infections? This one is a bit trickier, and the honest answer is: it depends. First off, there are a lot of things that can present like an ear infection, but are actually something else altogether. Earache or pain can be caused by ear infections yes, but it can also be caused by colds, tooth problems or even sinus issues. If it’s caused by a cold or blocked sinuses, then normal cold medicines, ibuprofen and decongestants should clear it up. Genuine ear infections however have different symptoms than ear infections caused by a cold, and even then, around half of ear infections clear up on their own without any need for antibiotics. For more severe infections, antibiotics will be needed to help treat it. If your child is suffering from a severe earache is worth visiting a doctor, as they might want to prescribe them ear drops for the pain.   How Long Will An Antibiotic Take To Work? This is a hard one to answer because every infection is different.   Research tends to show that most bacterial infections will improve within 48 to 72 hours of starting a course of antibiotics. If symptoms get worse or don’t improve within 72 hours, it’s worth going back to the doctor.   Are There Any Side Effects? Yes. Just like every medication, antibiotics do have some side effects, and for children they tend to affect around 1 in every 10 taking them. Some common side effects include developing an itchy rash that looks like hives, nausea, diarrhoea, stomach main, and in some cases more severe allergic reactions. If your child is experiencing side effects from antibiotics you will need to let your doctor know right away, or for more serious reactions call 111 (UK only). Rashes are one of the most common allergic reactions, and childhood antibiotic use is usually when parents discover their child is allergic to penicillin.   Do I Have To Give My Child The Whole Course? Yes. This is the most common mistake people make with antibiotics, and is just one of the reasons we are now having such a problem with antibiotic-resistant bacteria. While symptoms might start to disappear within 48-72 hours, that doesn’t mean that the underlying infection is gone. If you stop giving antibiotics at that stage, the infection will likely flare up again (since it was never fully treated), and be more difficult to get rid of.   When my daughter was 3 months old she started to suffer regularly with tonsillitis. Sometimes it was viral and other times it was bacterial, and in that case the doctor would prescribe antibiotics.    Unfortunately, as she got older she started to refuse to take the antibiotics and would sometimes spit them out.  I knew how important it was that she completed the course, so after a couple of failed attempts I stopped giving her any antibiotics and she would fight off the infection herself.  Eventually, she ended up having a tonsillectomy, so all is fine now!   Antibiotics And Resistant Bacteria As mentioned in the previous answers, resistant bacteria can be caused by the repeated use and misuse of antibiotics. These new resistant bacteria can’t be treated with normal antibiotics and can spread easily to other children and adults. Over time if we continue to misuse antibiotics, it will eventually no longer be effective, so it is vital we only take antibiotics when prescribed by a doctor and the course is completed correctly. This is also one of the reasons doctors are reluctant to prescribe ‘broad spectrum’ antibiotics, and prefer to offer medicines specific to your child’s illness instead.   How Do I Store Antibiotics Safely? Some antibiotics are kept at room temperature and some need to be refrigerated.  Make sure you check the instructions carefully. It will also tell how often to give the antibiotics throughout the day.   The Medi-Redi storage timer can help you with the administration of antibiotics.  Programme your timer so you are reminded when the next dose of antibiotics is due.  If the antibiotics need to be refrigerated store it in the fridge and keep your Medi-Redi timer nearby to alert you.  If it is stored at room temperature then put the antibiotics inside your Medi-Redi container and keep it close by.  You can conveniently store your medicine spoons, syringes and there’s space to store other medicines too if necessary.   The Medi-Redi storage timer will ensure you don’t miss a dose, giving you peace of mind and keeping your little one safe.   To order yours, click here.