Most infections are caused by one of two main types of germs:
bacteria or viruses. Most coughs and sore throats (and all
caused by viruses, meaning that antibiotics cannot help. In
fact, The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) makes this
clear, advising: “antibiotics should not be used to treat
Children receive a disproportionate number of antibiotic
prescriptions, particularly to treat upper respiratory infections.
Evidence suggests that many times, these prescriptions are
unnecessary because they are given not for URIs, but for viral
infections such as the common cold.
Apparently many doctors aren’t paying attention to this information.
Consider the results of a three-part study published last
year in the journal Pediatrics. Survey responses from
366 pediatricians and family physicians were compared with
published recommendations on diagnosis and treatment of URIs;
patient charts from 25 randomly selected pediatricians were
reviewed; and a sample of parents from each practice was interviewed
Although 97% of physicians agreed that antibiotic overuse
is a major factor contributing to resistance, many did not
follow recently published recommendations for judicious antibiotic
use: 86% prescribed antibiotics for bronchitis regardless
of the duration of cough, and 42% prescribed antibiotics inappropriately
for the common cold. Most revealing perhaps was the observation
that physicians who prescribed antibiotics more prudently
had up to 30% less total office visits per child per year.
In other words, more isn’t necessary better, especially not
when it comes to antibiotics! Talk to your doctor about the
pros and cons of antibiotic use, and about the many effective
nonpharmaceutical alternatives available.
Watson RL, Dowell SF, Jayaraman M, et al. Antimicrobial use
for pediatric upper respiratory infections: reported practice,
actual practice, and parent beliefs. Pediatrics, Dec.
1999: Vol. 104, No. 6, pp1251-57.