Why Antibiotics Shouldn't Always Be Your First Call To Action

  • Parents Only

By: Alex Harmon, ellaslist

As a parent you hate seeing your child sick, upset or in pain - and you will do anything to make them feel better. But when your child is experiencing symptoms of earache, sore throat, cough or cold, are antibiotics always the answer? Not always, it seems. Yet for some parents antibiotics are almost expected when they visit their GP.

According to research released by independent not-for-profit NPS MedicineWise during World Antibiotic Awareness Week (November 13-19), one third of parents visit their GPs with the intention of getting antibiotics to treat under-14-year-old children who have sore throats, sore ears, coughs or colds. 

In One Ear... Out The Other

The treatment of ear infection appears to cause the most concern for parents. Out of 1,000 surveyed, 55% of parents would expect an antibiotic prescription for their child’s earache, and 42% would ask for antibiotics.

Although antibiotics are sometimes required for ear infections, they mostly clear up on their own. After 24 hours 6 out of 10 children are feeling better, whether they had antibiotics or not. In most cases, all your child needs is some TLC from mum or dad and a few days at home on the couch watching Finding Dory.  

What Many Don't Know

NPS MedicineWise Medical Adviser Dr Andrew Boyden said: “When a child is sick, it’s a worrying time for parents, but it’s important to remember that antibiotics are not the answer to all infections.

“Taking antibiotics when they aren’t needed increases the likelihood of resistance developing, leading to antibiotics being less effective. If the child were to contract a serious bacterial infection, antibiotics may not work for them in the future, which could be potentially life-threatening.”

"A typically healthy child’s immune system is powerful and will clear up most common infections on its own. What the child will need in most cases is time and rest to recover, with over-the-counter pain relief medications if required.”

 

Too Much Of A Good Thing?

The more antibiotics are used, the more chances bacteria have to become resistant to them. Australia has one of the highest antibiotic prescription rates globally, with around 29 million prescriptions issued each year. Taking antibiotics when they aren’t needed increases the likelihood of resistance developing, leading to antibiotics being less effective.

If your child were to contract a serious bacterial infection, antibiotics may not work for them in the future. Even though you have the best intentions, you could be doing your child a disservice in the long run. 

How Much Time On The Couch?

It seems we expect a speedy recovery for our kids too, with some parents believing that the recovery time from a sore throat, cold, cough and earache should last around 6 days. Studies show only 50% of children are better at 10 days, and symptoms can last up to two weeks. For coughs, parents expected symptoms to last a median of 6 days, whereas 50% of children’s coughs will take longer than 10 days to resolve.

According to the survey, a large number of parents will bring their child to see a GP with concerns over their symptoms, close to or on the day they believe the symptoms should have subsided.

“These findings appear to illustrate a disconnect between when many parents think their child should have made a recovery, and how long some of these kinds of symptoms can actually last. This could help explain why they go to the GP thinking that antibiotics may be needed, when often they are not required,” Dr Boyden said.

“It’s important to go the GP if parents are worried about their child or would like advice on how to manage their symptoms.”

Getting sick is part of growing up - and you have to remember that a typically healthy child’s immune system is powerful and will clear up most common infections on its own. After watching Finding Dory on repeat you might find that your ears are starting to hurt too.... but remember, antibiotics are not always the answer! 

 

For parents wanting to know about coughs, colds, earaches and sore throats, NPS MedicineWise has some useful information here.   You can also find out more about World Antibiotic Awareness Week here. 

 

 

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