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Antibiotics can be a great help to your child if used when medically necessary.

But antibiotics can actually be harmful to your child if they are not medically indicated or if they are administered incorrectly.

Most infections are caused by either viruses or bacteria. Germs that are bacterial can be treated with antibiotics. Germs that are viral are not effectively treated with antibiotics. Antibiotics should not be used to treat viral infections.

When are antibiotics needed?

Antibiotics are needed for a variety of infections, including several (but not all) types of ear infections, strep throat infections, and severe or long-lasting sinus infections.

Viral infections may be followed by secondary bacterial infections. But as long as the infection is viral, it does not help to treat the infection with antibiotics. If your child’s viral infection gets worse, and you think it has become a bacterial infection, please call our office.

Do I have to finish giving my child her course of antibiotics when she appears completely well?

Yes! Your doctor has prescribed the amount of medicine that he believes is necessary to fight your child’s infection. If you stop the antibiotics early, the infection may have an opportunity to return and your child could become sick again. It is not unusual for antibiotics to cause your child to have diarrhea or a slight rash. If your child is having trouble tolerating the antibiotics, please call our office.

Can I save unused antibiotics for my child’s next infection?

No. There are a number of reasons not to save unused antibiotics, and the following covers some but not all of the reasons. First of all, the leftover antibiotic may not be the right medicine for your child’s specific infection. There are many different antibiotics because they are designed to fight different kinds of bacteria. The antibiotic you have left over may not be designed for your child’s current infection. Also, antibiotics lose their effectiveness over time, and the antibiotic may not have the potency to adequately fight your child’s infection. Furthermore, an insufficient dose of antibiotics may cause actual harm. Your leftover doses could not only fail to treat the infection but could also set up your child for bacterial resistance to that antibiotic, i.e. bacteria could learn how to get around that antibiotic, and it would no longer work to treat your child’s infections in the future.

Why didn’t my doctor prescribe an antibiotic? My child is sick!

Not every infection should be treated with an antibiotic. Most infections are viral and antibiotics will not be effective in treating them. Your doctor will determine if your child’s infection is viral or bacterial, and if it bacterial, he will order the specific antibiotic that is best designed to treat it. If it is a viral infection, he will not order an antibiotic. If your doctor does not order an antibiotic, it is because he believes that your child will not be helped by an antibiotic.