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This week, the CDC called for physicians and parents to ‘Get Smart’ about antibiotics. They are most concerned about the overuse of antibiotics, which can sometimes happen for upper respiratory ailments like earaches and sore throats.

First things first…antibiotics are important and for many infections are the best treatment for your child’s ailment and preventing serious complications. The debate is around their overuse meaning if your child might be better off with TLC versus antibiotics.

Two examples:

Earaches. A good number of ear infections (many of which are caused by bacteria) will subside without treatment (particularly in older kids.) For kids younger than two (especially if they have a fever), I generally treat with antibiotics. At this age, kids have a higher risk of complications. For kids over age two, a wait and see approach is prudent. If the ear pain is getting worse, or the child develops a fever, it is then time to write that antibiotic prescription.

Sore Throats.This is another ‘it depends’ situation. Many sore throats are caused by viruses, which means the infection will get better on its own. If it’s a Strep infection—proven by doing a rapid Strep test or throat culture, an antibiotic is in order. The thing is, some providers end up prescribing antibiotics for sore throats that are really caused by a virus—and that is unnecessary.

What’s the harm? Antibiotics are not risk-free. In addition to the emergence of superbugs, they could have side effects such as diarrhea, yeast infections and allergic reactions.

What Should You Do? Every child and situation is unique. Asking for more information from your doctor is the best start. And give your pediatrician as many details as you can about your child’s sickness. When the doctor recommends a treatment ask questions…

  • What can I expect for the duration of the illness?
  • What can I do to make my child feel better for the illness?
  • What should I look out for that may means my child’s condition is worsening?

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