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This month at the Kid Clinic: Antibiotics; when are they needed?

This month at the Kid Clinic: Antibiotics; when are they needed?

little girl blowing her nose

Valerie Amstadt, PA-C
Campbell County Medical Group Kid Clinic

With cold and flu season upon us, it is very important for patients and families to realize when an antibiotic may be needed, or when they can let their body fight the infection on its own. Common colds and the flu can make a child feel pretty miserable. They can also cause a child to have high fevers for a few days, which may be scary for parents. Colds and flu are caused by viruses, and antibiotics are not effective treatments for a viral infection.

Common symptoms that cold viruses and the flu can cause include headaches, sore throat, nasal congestion, ear pain, coughing, body aches, vomiting, diarrhea, and fevers. Your child should see a health care provider if they have any difficulty breathing, if their cough seems to be improving and then suddenly becomes worse again, if they start to drool or spit because it hurts too much to swallow their own secretions, if they have high fevers lasting 4-5 days, if they have a headache along with pain when moving their neck, or if their vomiting/diarrhea is excessive and they appear dehydrated or lethargic. Otherwise, home management for viruses include Ibuprofen and Tylenol for fever or pain, extra clear fluids, rest, and over the counter medications to treat specific symptoms they may be having. Based on the symptoms a patient is experiencing and the physical exam findings, it is very possible that your child will get diagnosed with a viral illness or the flu this fall and winter. Do not be upset if your health care provider does not give you an antibiotic, because they know that antibiotics won’t provide effective treatment.

Antibiotics are specifically used to fight bacterial infections. Common infections caused by bacteria that should be treated with antibiotics include strep throat, ear infections, pneumonia, urinary tract infections and skin infections. Some of these things are diagnosed by tests and others are diagnosed by physical exam findings. Antibiotics also come with their own side effects, such as diarrhea, and if they are over-used they can lead to serious issues, such as antibiotic resistance. This means that antibiotics will stop working as well for bacterial infections. If your health care provider prescribes an antibiotic for your child, it is okay to ask what illness the antibiotic is being prescribed for, what the side effects of the antibiotic are, if it would be acceptable to wait to see if your child can fight the illness on their own without the antibiotic, and if the medication they are prescribing is the most specific antibiotic to treat your child’s infection.

If you ever have questions about antibiotic use, don’t hesitate to contact your child’s primary care provider or the Kid Clinic for further information.

Feel free to read this article, Kids and antibiotics: Don’t overdo it by Marc Gorelick, MD, regarding antibiotic use that was written by the Chief of Emergency Medicine at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin.

The Kid Clinic is a school-based pediatric clinic offering medical care and counseling services for Campbell County students in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade and their siblings over the age of 2. It is located at 800 Butler Spaeth Rd., across from St. Matthew’s Catholic Church. The Kid Clinic is open Monday-Friday from 8 am-5 pm. For more information, call 307-688-8700 or visit www.cchwyo.org/kidclinic.

The Kid Clinic is a collaborative effort between Campbell County Health and Campbell County School District.