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Does your child really need an antibiotic?
Viral illnesses like colds, flu and sore throats fare just as well with time, attention
December 20, 2010

The cold and flu season might also be called the “antibiotic season” for all the pills taken this time of year. But in many cases, antibiotics are unnecessary.

 

Most childhood illnesses – including influenza, colds, and sore throats (except strep throat) – are caused by viruses. Antibiotics, on the other hand, are designed to treat bacterial infections.

 

“Antibiotics are good drugs if taken for the right reasons, but they’re not a magical cure-all,” says Paul Karazija, M.D., Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield chief medical officer. “While it’s not always the most convenient option, the best care is usually time and a parent’s attention.”

 

Most childhood illnesses get better without antibiotics in seven days or less. Repeated antibiotic use may lead to antibiotic resistance, which increases your risk of getting an infection later that resists antibiotic treatment.

 

Wellmark has created the Resist Antibiotics for a Cold or Flu kit for parents, teachers, and daycare providers to educate children about how germs are transferred, appropriate hand washing techniques, proper use of antibiotics and why antibiotics don’t help for a cold or the flu. The materials can be downloaded at www.wellmark.com/germs.

 

Viral illnesses don’t require antibiotics

 

Illness

Usual Cause

Antibiotic Needed

Virus

Bacteria

 

Cold

Yes

No

No

Flu

Yes

No

No

Chest Cold (in otherwise healthy children & adults)

Yes

No

No

Sore Throats (except strep)

Yes

No

No

Bronchitis (in otherwise healthy children & adults)

Yes

No

No

Runny Nose (with green or yellow mucus)

Yes

No

No

 

According to Karazija, the first thing most parents can do is listen to their doctor. If the doctor says your child doesn’t need an antibiotic, then don’t pressure them to prescribe the medication anyway.

 

If an antibiotic is warranted, don’t hesitate to ask your doctor if a generic medication is available. Generic drugs typically cost 50-60 percent less than their brand-name counterparts. Also, be sure to complete the entire course of treatment.

 

“Don’t stop taking the medication just because you’re feeling better,” Karazija cautions. “Just because your child is ‘back to normal’ doesn’t mean the bacteria are dead.”

 

An infection can restart if a child stops taking their medication before all the bacteria has been killed, leading to another course of antibiotics, and increasing the likelihood of antibiotic resistance.

 

For more information on health and health insurance, call the Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield Personal Health Assistant 24/7 at 1-800-724-9122, or visit www.wellmark.com.

 

Contact Wellmark Media Relations

Traci McBee
Phone: 515-376-4338
mcbeet@wellmark.com

 

Teresa Roof
Phone: 515-376-5869
rooft@wellmark.com

 

1331 Grand Avenue
Des Moines, IA 50309-2901

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