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Common Questions, Quick Answers

What are antibiotics?


What kinds of germs make your child sick?
How do antibiotics work?
When are antibiotics needed?
What should I do if my child needs an antibiotic?
What is bacterial resistance?
How can we help prevent bacterial resistance?
What are possible side effects of antibiotics?
What are signs of a severe reaction?
Call your doctor at once if your child has one of these reactions
When should I call the doctor?

What are antibiotics?

Antibiotics are strong medicines used to treat sicknesses called infections


Infections can be caused by germs called bacteria, or viruses.
Antibiotics kill bacteria only. They do not kill viruses.
When used properly, they can save lives.
When not used properly, they could hurt your child.

What kinds of germs make your child sick?

There are two main types of germs: bacteria and viruses


Viral illnesses are much more common than bacterial illnesses
o Examples of viral infections:
All colds
All croup
All influenza (flu)
Chicken pox
Most coughs
Most fevers
Most sore throats
Most sore throats
Examples of bacterial infections:
Many ear infections
Most sinus infections
Some pneumonia
Strep throat
Urinary tract infections
Whooping cough (pertussis)
How do antibiotics work?

Bacteria and viruses spread very differently. This is


why antibiotics work on bacteria, but not on viruses.
Bacteria live by themselves. They have a protective
cell wall around them. They enter our body and
make more of themselves. This causes us to get
sick. Antibiotics destroy the bacteria protective
cell walls and kill them.
Viruses cannot live by themselves. They do not
have a protective cell wall. They enter the body, go
into cells, and then make more of themselves inside
the body's cells. Antibiotics do not work on viruses
because they do not have the protective cell wall.
Viral infections will not get better with
antibiotics!

When are antibiotics needed?

Antibiotics should only be used if your child has a


bacterial infection.
Your child's doctor will know if an antibiotic is
needed.

What should I do if my child needs an antibiotic?

Ask your doctor if your child's infection is caused


by a bacteria or virus.
Talk to your child's doctor about any worries you
may have about antibiotics.
Wash your hands often to decrease the chances of
getting sick or spreading the infection.
Make sure your child takes the exact amount of the
antibiotic. The amount is based on your child's
weight. If your child takes too much or too little of
the antibiotic, it may not work right.
Make sure your child takes ALL of the antibiotic
that was given to him, even if he is feeling better.
If you are not sure about the amount to give, ask
your doctor or pharmacist.
If you have other questions about the antibiotic, ask
your doctor or pharmacist.

What is bacterial resistance?

Each time we take an antibiotic, some bacteria are


killed. But other bacteria are not killed and learn to

defend themselves against the antibiotic. These


bacteria are called resistant.
Resistant bacteria happen when:
antibiotics are used too often
antibiotics are not taken the right way.

How can I help prevent bacterial resistance?

Do not demand that your child's doctor give you an


antibiotic for a viral infection.
Use antibiotics only when your child's doctor says
they are needed
Make sure your child takes the right amount of the
antibiotic.
Make sure your child takes ALL of the antibiotic
that was given to him
Do not take an antibiotic that was for someone else.
Do not give your child's antibiotic to anyone else.
Do not take an old antibiotic that has been lying
around the house. Throw out all old antibiotics.
There are three ways that you should throw out old
antibiotics:
Throw them in the trash. Make sure you
crush the pills and put them back into the
original container. Tape the container shut
and then put it in a bag. Put this bag in
another bag to keep children and pets from
getting into it
Take them to a local household hazardous
waste collection site
Take them back to your pharmacy.

What are possible side effects of antibiotics?

Each antibiotic is different. Most have few side


effects
The most common side effects are nausea, diarrhea
and vomiting, or stomach pain.
Some people may be allergic to an antibiotic. They
could get a rash, hives, or have problems breathing.
Be sure to tell your child's doctor of any side
effects.

What are the signs of a severe reaction to the antibiotic?

Your child could have problems breathing.

In some severe cases, he may stop breathing.

Call your doctor at once if your child has one of these


reactions:

Problems breathing
Rash that is getting worse
Diarrhea and vomiting that is getting worse
Nausea or stomach pain that is bad

When should I call the doctor?

Call our doctor if your child is sick for more than a


couple of days or if he is getting worse. Your child's
doctor can tell if the infection needs an antibiotic.
Call your doctor if your child gets a rash, nausea,
diarrhea and vomiting, or stomach pain after taking
the antibiotic and is getting worse.
Call your doctor right away if your child has
difficulty breathing after taking the antibiotic.
Call your doctor if your child's infection does not
start to get better in 2-3 days.
Call your doctor if you have any questions about
your child's condition.

Quick Answers

Antibiotics are strong medicines used to treat


certain infections.
They kill bacteria only. They do not kill viruses
Antibiotics should only be used if your child has a
bacterial infection.
Make sure your child takes the exact amount of the
antibiotic. The amount is based on your child's
weight. If your child takes too much or too little of
the antibiotic, it may not work right.
Make sure your child takes ALL of the antibiotic
that was given to him, even if he is feeling better.
Each time we take an antibiotic, some bacteria are
killed. But other bacteria learn to defend themselves
against the antibiotic. These bacteria are called
resistant.
Resistant bacteria happen when:
antibiotics are used too often
antibiotics are not taken the right way.
Most antibiotics have few side effects.

The most common side effects are nausea, diarrhea


and vomiting, or stomach pain.
Some people may be allergic to an antibiotic. They
could get a rash, hives, or have problems breathing.
Remember, antibiotics will only kill bacteria. They
do not kill viruses.
Always use antibiotics wisely

References

Association for Professionals in Infection Control


and Epidemiology (APIC). Antibiotic Safely. 2002.
(cited 2004, February 17). URL:
http://www.apic.org/iicw/2002/IICW2002Antibiotic
Safety.pdf
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Your
Child and Antibiotics." 2002, February 15. (cited
2004, February 17). URL:
http://www.cdc.gov/antibioticresistance/files/html_v
ersions/Your%20Child%20and%20Antibiotics.htm
Familydoctor.org. Antibiotics: When They Can and
Can't Help. 2002 December. (cited 2004, February
17). URL: http://familydoctor.org/x2250.xml
KidsHealth.org. The Danger of Antibiotic Overuse.
2001, November. (cited 2004, February 17). URL:
http://kidshealth.org/PageManager.jsp?
dn=KidsHealth&lic=1&ps=107&cat_id=128&articl
e_set=27805
Loyola University Health System. Antibiotics.
2003, December 4. (cited 2004, February 17). URL:
http://www.luhs.org/health/topics/pediatrics/antibio.
htm MayoClinic.com. Using antibiotics sensibly.
2002, February 6. (cited 2004, February 17). URL:
http://www.mayoclinic.com/invoke.cfm?
id=FL00075
REACH Mass. Kids and Antibiotics. (cited 2004,
February 17). URL:
http://www.reachmass.org/parents-anitbiotics.html
University of Michigan Health System. Antibiotics:
Preventing Unnecessary Use. 2003. (cited 2004,
February 17). URL:
http://www.med.umich.edu/1libr/pa/pa_antiprev_hh
g.htm