The following article is taken from an email received from NPS MedicineWise
Many people are misinformed
No-one likes seeing a child unwelI with a cold or flu, but it is important for parents and carers to remember that antibiotics only work on infections caused by bacteria, not those caused by viruses.
In most cases, children just need rest and time to allow their immune system to fight the virus. Another common misconception is that antibiotics will speed up recovery from cold and flu viruses in both children and adults – but they don't.
With any course of antibiotics, there is a risk of developing antibiotic-resistant bacteria. This means that antibiotics are no longer effective against the bacteria they once killed. Once they develop, antibiotic resistant bacteria can exist for up to a year. This is another key reason why it is important to avoid antibiotics unless there is a bacterial infection that won't clear up on its own.
A common belief in the community and outlined in some individual child care centre guidelines is that is that if a child has green snot, they should be prescribed antibiotics. Green snot doesn't mean an antibiotic is required. Green or yellow coloured nasal discharge can in fact be a sign that the immune system is fighting the infection, and not that a viral illness is getting worse.
Ear infections are commonly associated with colds in children. In children older than 2 years, a middle ear infection will often get better by itself in a few days, as the body's immune system can take care of the infection without any treatment.
Children aged under 2 years, often won’t need antibiotics either, but may benefit from antibiotics if they have certain symptoms such as infection in both ears, fluid draining from the ear or if they otherwise seem unwell.
It is important to remember that children of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander origin are at higher risk of repeated infections and chronic ear problems so should always be assessed by a doctor when they have ear ache.
As pain is usually the worst symptom of ear infections, pain relief medicines (such as paracetamol or ibuprofen) are important to help with pain. Antibiotics won't help to relieve initial ear pain.
Antibiotic side effects
Like any medicine, antibiotics can cause side effects. Common side effects include vomiting, diarrhoea, thrush infection and can also include allergic reactions (such as hives). Antibiotic-associated diarrhoea is particularly common in children taking a course of antibiotics.
If taken for a viral illness, antibiotics will not help the illness, but can cause damage to ‘good' bacteria like those found in the gut. Scientists are only just discovering how gut bacteria affect overall health. It takes time for these good bacteria populations to regenerate in a child's body after a course of antibiotics.
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