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A Complete Guide To Understanding “Antibiotic Resistance” In Kids

Kids’ health is one of the most concerning aspects of parenthood. We always want our children to be healthy and happy. But childhood aliments still remain a fact of life. They range from common cold, cough to more severe aliments such as pneumonia and bronchitis. Sometimes, for parents (especially, first-time parents) it is difficult to determine the severity of an infection.

Meet Seema, whose 2 year old daughter frequently suffers from an ear infection. Actually it is only an earache but she does not know if it is a sign of infection or not. She is confused if her daughter actually needs the antibiotics her doctor prescribes every time? She is afraid that her daughter may develop “Antibiotic resistance”.

What is Antibiotic Resistance?

Antibiotic Resistance is a condition that occurs when bacteria change in a way that reduces the effectiveness of antibiotics to treat or prevent the infection. The bacteria continue to survive and multiply, in spite of antibiotic treatment.

Seema is not alone. Many parents have questions regarding the proper use of antibiotics. “How does an antibiotic work?” “Why is it important that antibiotics are not overused?” “How can we prevent ‘Antibiotic resistance’ in kids?”

Being a physician and mom of two young kids ‘Antibiotic resistance’ also scares me a lot. I am sharing some information regarding this. Hope it helps others. As we all know, antibiotics are the greatest progress in medicine. They can either kill or inhibit the growth of bacteria. They are used in the treatment and prevention of bacterial infection. Antibiotics are not effective against viruses, such as common cold and influenza. There are mainly two types of germs, which make kids sick:  bacteria and virus

  • Bacterial infections: Most bacteria do not cause any harm. In fact some good bacteria help us. For example, Lactobacillus lives in the small intestine and promotes an easy digestion. But some bacteria are harmful and can cause severe illness by disturbing the normal bodily functions. Tuberculosis, pneumonia and meningitis are few illnesses that may be caused by harmful bacteria. Antibiotics are effective against bacterial infections.
  • Viral infections– These are caused by viruses. Viruses are not living organisms, they reproduce only after they have invaded the cell of the living organism. Usually, viral infections are self-limiting and do not require any specific treatment. The immune system can fight effectively with viral infections. Antibiotics do not work against viruses.

What are the main causes of  ‘Antibiotic resistance’?

There are two major causes of developing ‘Antibiotic resistance’:

  • Overusing antibiotics- Taking antibiotics for viral or other illnesses is one mistake that creates bacteria that are harder to kill. Frequent and inappropriate use of antibiotics can cause bacteria to develop a resistance against them. And treating these resistant bacteria requires higher doses or stronger antibiotics. Overusing antibiotics may cause serious side effects in kids such as diarrhoea, skin rashes and acidity. Sometimes, antibiotics may also kill good bacteria that help to keep the body healthy.
  • Misuse of antibiotic– Misusing antibiotic is the second main cause of antibiotic resistance. Using leftover antibiotics, skipping the recommended dose, not completing the full course of the drug, taking antibiotics prescribed for someone else are some of the common mistakes that may cause antibiotic resistance in the kid.

What can we do as parents?

Parents play a vital role to prevent ‘Antibiotic resistance’. Here are some easy steps that you can adopt to prevent ‘Antibiotic resistance’ in your child.

Be Patient and calm

The first and most important step, “Be calm and patient” and not react impulsively when your child is suffering from a common childhood aliments.  Usually, when we bring our child to the doctor for these common childhood aliments (common cold, cough, and fever) we automatically expect a prescription that makes the fastest cure for our kids. This parental anxiety is the main cause of overuse of antibiotic. Sometimes, physician prescribe antibiotics just to satisfy the parents.

Be careful and do a “watchful waiting

It is better to let common childhood illnesses especially those thought to be caused by viruses complete their course. But be careful and monitor your child’s symptoms carefully. It is a good idea to understand the common course, symptoms, precautions and especially the “warning signs” of the routine illnesses.

For example, in case of common cold:

  • Runny nose
  • Mild fever
  • Aversion to eating
  • Lethargy

These are common symptoms and tend to recover within few days. But if a child have

  • Difficult breathing
  • High-grade fever
  • Discoloration of any body part
  • Pain in chest

These should be considered as “warning signs” that require immediate medical attention. If you are not sure about progression of symptoms, it is best to take a professional medical consultation for avoiding inconvenience.

Develop a good relationship and an open communication with your doctor

This is the most effective way to prevent the ‘Antibiotic resistance’ in kids. Having an open communication with your doctor helps you to understand your child’s problem more effectively. Ask him/her if the illness is bacterial or viral. Discuss simpler ways to control annoying symptoms of common illnesses And most importantly understand “When to consult a doctor or prominent signs of infection?” This communication helps you  feel confident and you would be able to avoid the unnecessary medication for common childhood diseases.

Adopt the simplest way to prevent infections

The best way to prevent ‘antibiotic resistance’ is to prevent infections by developing good habits in kids. Encourage them to

  • Wash their hands properly after coming home from outside.
  • Eat a healthy and balanced diet, rich in fruits and vegetable
  • Exercise regularly

Apart from that complete vaccination as per schedule helps in prevention of infection. Centre for Disease Control and Prevention offers complete guidelines for preventing antibiotic resistance.

Use alternative therapy for repeated infections

In spite of all preventive measures if your child suffers from repeated infections or a common cough, cold or ear pain and you do not wish to use antibiotics as a treatment option, then alternative therapy can be a good option to build  resistance power in kids. Homeopathy is one of them. Being a homeopath, I have always observed the miraculous results of homeopathy in common childhood problems. The best part is that it increases immunity power and  is free from side effects.. You may use some common homeopathic medicines for treating routine illnesses. But for repeated infections, it is best to go for professional consultation.

Do you have any experience with the overuse of antibiotics or have you tried any other strategies to prevent the ‘Antibiotic resistance’? Please share with us. Until then eat healthy and live well!

*Disclaimer- the article is for informational purpose only, not intended to be a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Surbhi is a qualified doctor (B.H.M.S.) with 5 year of teaching and clinical experience. She started her writing journey at the age of 17 and published various articles in famous news paper and magazines. The most incredible experience of her life is being a mommy of two cute dolls. Recently she started her own blog Positive Parenting. She loves to write on crafting, parenting issues and kids activity and wants to share her parenting journey with others.