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The Kid’s Doctor: Get smart about antibiotics this cold and flu season

  • Author: Sue Hubbard, M.D.,, Premium Health News Service
  • Updated: July 29, 2019
  • Published July 29, 2019

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics collaborated on an online article for publication in an issue of Pediatrics which offers updated guidance on treating respiratory tract infections in children, with the goal of reducing unnecessary antibiotic prescriptions.

This article is especially important as the entire country is entering cough, cold and flu season. All of the former are caused by viruses, not bacteria, and therefore do not respond to treatment with antibiotics. Studies have shown that as many as 10 million antibiotic prescriptions are written each year for infections that are most likely due to a virus, so there's no need for antibiotics.

One of the most common reasons a parent takes their child to the pediatrician is for symptoms of a common cold. The runny nose, cough, congestion and just not feeling well usually lasts about 10 days. Pediatricians need to explain -- and parents need to understand -- that the best treatment for an upper respiratory infection is simply symptomatic. That means lots of TLC (tender loving care), which I'm currently indulging in for my own cold.

Warm showers at bedtime (I love eucalyptus in my shower, too), a cool mist humidifier in the room, lots of fluids and chicken noodle soup and popsicles will all help soothe stuffy noses, cool scratchy throats and calm coughs. I'm trying tea with honey for my cough tonight.

Antibiotics are very important when used appropriately. That being said, at least 2 million people are infected with antibiotic resistant bacteria each year. By using antibiotics when only necessary, rather than for common upper respiratory infections, doctors are hopeful that the incidence of antibiotic resistance will not continue to rise.

We all want a quick fix for colds and coughs (me included!), but taking an antibiotic is not the answer. Just know that no matter what you do, it takes 7-10 days (or even 14) to get well, and that a toddler will get 5-7 colds, coughs and upper respiratory infections during the winter months. It's great if your child doesn't need an antibiotic; wear that badge with honor!

As a parent. you should be pleased that you don't have to give your child an antibiotic, unless necessary, for bacterial illnesses like strep throat or an ear infection in a young child. Ask your doctor questions.

What does help? Getting your child vaccinated, including the flu vaccine. Any child over the age of 6 months needs to get a flu vaccine annually, and don’t delay. Flu season is here!