Pharmacy Week: Q&A on antibiotic use in children

Woman wearing blazer and pearl necklace. Headshot of Karla Miller.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 23,000 deaths in the United States can be attributed to antibiotic resistance.  This statistic is even more alarming, knowing that up to half of all antibiotics used in humans are unnecessary or inappropriate. To prevent ourselves from plummeting back into an era without antibiotics, patients and healthcare providers alike must work together to combat resistance and promote the safe and efficient use of antibiotics.

In an effort to combat antibiotic overuse, HCA Healthcare has joined with the CDC to track antibiotic prescriptions by collecting and reporting monthly antibiotic use data and reporting it through CDC’s National Healthcare Safety Network.

Karla Miller, vice president of HCA Healthcare pharmacy services and clinical therapeutics, addresses some common concerns parents with sick children have about antibiotics below.

Question. My doctor did not prescribe antibiotics for my child’s cold.  Why?

Answer. Many illnesses in children, such as the common cold and flu, are caused by viruses.  Antibiotics do not work against viral infections, and will not shorten the course of your child’s illness. Additionally, unnecessary use of antibiotics can contribute to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Question. I think my child has “strep throat.”  Can I just give him some antibiotics from when my other child had “strep throat”?

Answer. No. Only give medicine to the child for which it was prescribed. The medication may be expired, too high of a dose, not effective for the type of illness, or your child may have an allergy to this medication. To protect your children, do not exchange prescribed medication between siblings or friends.

Question. How do I know my child’s sinusitis is caused by bacteria and not a virus or allergies?

Answer. Symptoms for a bacterial infection may present a little differently than if the sinusitis was caused by a virus or allergies. If your child has (1) a common cold with cough and green mucus that lasts longer than 10 days, or (2) a high fever (> 102°F) for at least 3-4 days accompanied by thick yellow or green mucus, your child might have bacterial sinusitis.

Question.  I don’t think the antibiotic is working.  When should I call the doctor?

Answer.  It may take up to 48 to 72 hours to see improvements in your child’s illness.  If symptoms worsen or there is no symptom relief within 72 hours, call the doctor.  Do not stop taking the antibiotic before talking with your doctor; discontinuing an antibiotic too early can make the infection worse, and can contribute to antibiotic resistance by allowing disease-causing bacteria to grow unchecked in the absence of the body’s natural flora.

Talk to your child’s doctor if you have any questions.

October is American Pharmacist Month, and October 15-21, 2017 is National Pharmacy Week. Thanks to all of the pharmacists who play an important role on the healthcare team throughout HCA Healthcare. For more information on antibiotics and common illnesses in children, please visit: CDC’s Pediatric Treatment Recommendations and AAP’s

About HCA Healthcare

HCA Healthcare, one of the nation's leading providers of healthcare services, is comprised of 183 hospitals and more than 2,300 sites of care, in 20 states and the United Kingdom. Our more than 283,000 colleagues are connected by a single purpose — to give patients healthier tomorrows.

As an enterprise, we recognize the significant responsibility we have as a leading healthcare provider within each of the communities we serve, as well as the opportunity we have to improve the lives of the patients for whom we are entrusted to care. Through the compassion, knowledge and skill of our caregivers, and our ability to leverage our scale and innovative capabilities, HCA Healthcare is in a unique position to play a leading role in the transformation of care.

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