When new parents-to-be come and interview me to be their child’s pediatrician, nearly all ask my thoughts about antibiotic use. I certainly understand the question as most parents (but not all) prefer their children don’t receive antibiotics if they are not needed. And I certainly agree-- my typical response to parents is something along the lines of, “I will use them if I feel they are necessary,” but I will make sure that I explain to the parents why I feel they are necessary.
You see, I always want parents to understand why we are doing or not doing something. When we educate parents on our thought process, it is obviously ultimately better for our children. And yes, it makes my job as the pediatrician a tad bit easier.
So over the years, there has been great concern on the overuse of antibiotic use in the pediatric population. Fortunately, as greater physician education and more specific guidelines have been released as to when antibiotics should be used in the pediatric population (e.g. with regard to ear infections, sinus infections), research has shown a decline in antibiotic use in the pediatric population. But a new research study to be published in next month’s journal of Pediatrics
is now indicating that the decline in antibiotic use we have seen over recent years may be leveling off now, and I find that concerning. Because the more we use antibiotics, the more we encourage resistant bacteria, which make them harder to treat effectively in the future. This also leads to an increased number of those having side effects to these antibiotics.
And so what the researchers found was that over a 10-year period there was a nice decline from the early part of the last decade and heading on throughout the decade, but by the end there was a plateau in that decline. Now some might say this leveling off may be due to the fact we are now only using antibiotics when necessary in the pediatric population but my instinct says otherwise and we (as physicians) are still using antibiotics unnecessarily and need to try harder to adhere to good practicing techniques.
So for parents reading this, if you don’t understand why an antibiotic is not being prescribed for your ill child, ask your child’s pediatrician to clarify things
because education is so very important.
And I’m sure many of you are wondering about the adult population and antibiotic use. Although that may not be my area of expertise, I would be very surprised there is not an overuse of antibiotics in that population as well. But I will save that conversation for my colleagues to discuss.
- Dr. Jeremy
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