She walked out of the hospital fuming. She was livid. Her baby was obviously unwell; loud cries, fever, reddened eyes, runny nose, very irritable. He hardly slept last night! No doubt, he had some kind of horrible infection!

Why couldn’t the doctor just give her the antibiotics she requested for? Instead, he was sending her away empty handed, saying she should just keep her baby warm, comfortable and well hydrated. He said he will call her when the test results were out, but, he sounded pretty certain it was nothing more than a bad viral infection her baby had picked up from creche. She had tried to make him understand that even if it was viral, the antibiotics would still help. But, he had gone on and on about how antibiotics cannot be used in treating viral infections. In his own words, ‘Keep giving him his vitamins, as the cold runs its course. Give it a few days and he will feel better’.

Imagine describing her son’s discomfort as a mere cold? Besides, who has a few days? Her son was clearly uncomfortable and antibiotics will give a faster relief. Even if the doctor didn’t see it, she saw it!

Many moms believe that antibiotics is the answer to every ‘seemingly serious’ medical condition their child is going through. However, as you will see, they couldn’t be more wrong…

  • Antibiotics will not and cannot kill viruses. So using antibiotics to treat viral infections is useless! (Most childhood infections are caused by viruses)
  • Antibiotics is effective in combating bacterial based illnesses
  • Common illnesses caused by bacteria include: Pneumonia, tuberculosis, meningitis, wound and some skin infections, urinary tract infections, strep throat, some gastrointestinal infections, some sinus infections and most ear infections
  • Common illnesses caused by viruses include: All colds, most coughs and sore throats, some gastrointestinal infections and many other illnesses like chicken pox and measles
  • Viral infections may weaken a child’s immune system and cause secondary bacterial infections which may then require antibiotics treatment
  • Antibiotics will not help the child recover from a cold faster and it will not prevent secondary bacterial infections
  • Sometimes inappropriate administration of antibiotics will weaken a child’s immune system and make him more prone to the feared secondary bacterial infections
  • Antibiotics do not only kill the bad bacteria, they also kill the friendly ones that regulate the consistency of stools and help with digestion. Hence, a child may get diarrhoea when taking antibiotics. If diarrhoea is severe (more than 6 – 8 times a day), or if child shows signs of dehydration (has not peed in 6 hours, has sunken eyes, tearless cries, dry, sticky mouth, pinched skin that refuses to return back to its original shape, sunken fontanelle (i.e the soft spot on top of the head begins to sink), contact your doctor immediately
  • The full course of antibiotics must be followed through, even if the child gets well before completing it. If the child gets well before the full dosage is completed, it is because most of (and not all of) the bacteria has been killed. The ones left may now develop resistance to that antibiotic, if treatment is not completed
  • Don’t save liquid antibiotics for next time. Never use an old, left over antibiotic drug!
  • Taking antibiotics when not needed, can build the child’s resistance to antibiotics and make him need a much stronger type when actually down with a bacterial infection. Or, the child may one day get an illness which is altogether resistant to antibiotics
  • Taking antibiotics when not needed can expose the child to antibiotic’s potential side effects such as vomiting, nausea which leads to poor appetite, stomach pain, headache, etc
  • See the doctor if a child on antibiotics is dizzy, nauseous or has ringing sounds in ears