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Should I give my child antibiotics?

Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine
I've been advising parents for a long time not to automatically give their kids antibiotics for ear infections, the flu, or bronchitis -- all of which are usually caused by viruses. Antibiotics are designed to knock out bacterial infections, not viruses, yet every year in North America more than 50 million unnecessary and ineffective prescriptions for antibiotics are written to "treat" common viral infections. This misuse only worsens the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Don't get me wrong; these antibiotics are wonder drugs and millions of lives are saved every year because they kill off infections. Just be wise about using them. Giving kids common antibiotics, such as streptomycin and vancomycin, may damage their immune systems by eradicating good gut bacteria in their developing intestines. The result? Researchers think the ever-increasing use of antibiotics might be what's causing the number of allergic asthma cases to skyrocket. (There's been around a 50% increase in the past decade.) Now it's estimated that around 9 million kids in North America have this respiratory disease.

When your child comes down with a cold, flu, or other upper respiratory illness, ask the doc if antibiotics are really the best solution. Sometimes less is more.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.