Antibiotics and children: When and how to use them

While antibiotics have saved millions of lives, it’s important to tread with caution when it comes to giving your child antibiotics.

 Overuse of antibiotics can make your child more vulnerable to sickness.

It’s critical that antibiotics work when your child needs them. So, in this post, we’re going to talk about the correct application of antibiotics when it comes to children.

When should my child use antibiotics?

“Antibiotics are used to treat bacterial infections, not viral illnesses,” explains Clicks Pharmacist Waheed Abdurahman. “This means that they’re no good for treating common colds and flu which are caused by rhinovirus, influenza, and other viruses. So if your child has a stuffy nose, a cough, and a sore throat, antibiotics are definitely not the right treatment option for them.”

Waheed says that the best way to treat viral illnesses in children is to speak to your doctor about relieving the symptoms until your child’s body is able to fight the virus.

What happens when children use antibiotics incorrectly?

Overused and incorrectly prescribed antibiotics may cause antibiotic resistance in your child. When a sick child doesn’t finish their full course of antibiotics, the drug only wipes out some, but not all, of the bacteria. The surviving bacteria become stronger and more resistant to the antibiotic so it becomes less effective. This mutated bacteria can also spread to other people, meaning they also cannot be treated with that antibiotic.

Multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR) is a major example of how a disease that has become resistant and is now much more difficult to treat than ordinary TB. MDR has happened because some TB patients, who need a very long antibiotic treatment, didn’t finish the course, and the TB virus mutated as a result.

How can I help my child’s antibiotics do their job?

Here’s how you can ensure that your child’s antibiotics stay strong enough to fight infections:

  • Understand when antibiotics should be used and don’t give your child antibiotics every time they’re sick.
  • Don’t pressure your child’s doctor to prescribe them antibiotics. Rather ask your paediatrician to explain how you can relieve your child’s symptoms.
  • Give your child antibiotics only when prescribed by their doctor.
  • Ensure that your child takes their antibiotics exactly as their healthcare professional has said. Don’t let your child skip any doses. If in doubt, ask your Clicks pharmacist for advice.
  • Ensure that your child finishes their treatment, even if they start feeling better and no matter how long the treatment goes on.
  • Never share antibiotics or take leftover antibiotics prescribed for adults with your child.
  • Try to prevent the spread of infections by washing your hands regularly with soap, especially after going to the toilet, handling a nappy, or working with raw meat, poultry or fish. Cover your nose and mouth when sneezing or coughing.