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When should my child take antibiotics?

Your child should take antibiotics if your doctor prescribes them.  Antibiotics are used to treat bacterial infections. It is very difficult for parents to determine when their child might need antibiotics. A trained healthcare provider can only determine this. With that said, when your child is prescribed an antibiotic, it is important that he or she take them as prescribed.
Bacterial and viral infections in children may have similar symptoms -- runny nose, cough, fever, sore throat and difficulty sleeping -- but they require different treatments.

“It is important to understand that antibiotics -- which can effectively treat bacterial infections -- are not useful in viral infections and can actually be harmful,” states James Cherry, M.D., a UCLA pediatric infectious disease specialist. It’s important to limit antibiotic use only to bacterial infections. Inappropriate or overuse of antibiotics can contribute to the development of bacteria that become resistant so that they are not easily treatable.

In some cases, bacterial infections in children may be the result of secondary infection, meaning that the virus initiated the process and a bacterial infection occurred because of the effects of the viral infection. Sinusitis, ear infections and some pneumonias are common examples of secondary bacterial infections.

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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.