What are antibiotics?

Antibiotics are drugs prescribed by doctors to fight disease-causing bacteria. When used properly, they can save lives. However, improper use of antibiotics can be harmful to your child.

Bacterial infections in childhood may include pneumonia, otitis media (middle ear infections), meningitis (infection of the covering of the brain) and urinary tract infection. Some of these may be potentially serious and patients may require hospitalisation.

Does my child need antibiotics?

Antibiotics do not work on viruses. Children usually recover from common viral infections spontaneously after several days. Antibiotics are only useful for bacterial infections.

Antibiotics are only useful for bacterial infections. Some bacteria are smart, they develop a resistance to antibiotics. Repeated use and improper use of antibiotics can cause an increase in antibiotic-resistant bacteria. When this happens, your child's infection remains uncontrolled or may even get worse.

Progressively stronger and more expensive antibiotics will have to be used. Some bacteria can even be resistant to all the potent antibiotics that have ever been invented. As a result, doctors may have no more weapons left to fight the infection.

How can I protect my child from antibiotic-resistant bacteria?

  • Complete the course of antibiotics as prescribed even though your child may have started to feel better. This is necessary to help the body fight all the harmful bacteria.
  • Never share or use leftover antibiotics.
  • Don't expect or demand antibiotics for flu and allergic conditions. Consult your doctor when in doubt.
  • Do not expect antibiotics to work instantly. A response is usually seen in 2-3 days time. See the doctor again if the illness gets worse or lasts a long time, so that your child can be reassessed and proper treatment can be given as needed.
  • Do not 'doctor-hop'. It is confusing for both the patient and the doctor. The chance of inappropriate or inadequate antibiotics and medications being prescribed is higher.

Ref: Q15