Childr Health Information

Antibiotic use

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Topic: General Child Health

CHI #1388

This handout was written to answer some of the questions most often asked about antibiotic use. Feel free to ask your child’s doctor or nurse to go over any information you do not understand.

Children and adults with viral infections should not be treated with antibiotics. Using antibiotics against viruses makes them less effective when they are truly needed (antibiotic resistance). Antibiotics kill bacteria, not viruses. This information will help you understand why your child’s doctor may not prescribe antibiotics for your child’s viral illness.

What kinds of infections are caused by viruses and should not be treated with antibiotics?
Viral infections that should not be treated with antibiotics include:

  • Colds
  • Flu
  • Most coughs and bronchitis
  • Sore throats (except for those resulting from a strep infection)
  • Some ear infections

How do I make my child feel better if antibiotics can’t be used?
For upper respiratory infections such as sore throats, ear infections, sinus infections, colds and bronchitis, try the following:

  • Have your child rest in bed or on the couch.
  • Make sure your child drinks plenty of liquids, like water or juice.
  • Give your child acetaminophen (Tylenol®) or ibuprofen (Advil® or Motrin®) for fever, aches and pains. Do not give your child aspirin, as it can cause a rare but serious illness in kids called Reyes syndrome.
    • Remember, only use over-the-counter pain relievers, decongestants and saline nasal spray as directed. Many over-the-counter medicines are not recommended for children younger than a certain age.
  • Use a clean humidifier or cool mist vaporizer.
  • Do not smoke around your child or expose him or her to secondhand smoke or other chemicals in the air. These make your child more likely to get an infection.

In addition to the above, here are other ways to relieve your child’s symptoms.

  • Sore throat and/or cough:
    • Soothe a sore throat with ice chips or throat spray. Do not give cough drops (lozenges) to young children.
    • Have your child breathe in steam from a warm bath or shower.
  • Ear pain
    • Put a warm, moist cloth over the ear that hurts.
  • Runny nose
    • Use a decongestant or saline nasal spray to help a runny nose or congestion.
    • Use a bulb syringe to clear an infant's stuffed-up nose.
  • Sinus pain/pressure
    • Put a warm cloth or compress over the nose and forehead to relieve pressure.
    • Use a decongestant or saline nasal spray.
    • Have your child breathe in steam from a warm bath or shower.

Your child’s doctor or nurse, or your local pharmacist can help you decide how much medicine to give your child if you are not sure.

Remember, cough and cold symptoms usually go away after a certain length of time without treatment. It is not unusual for colds or flu to last up to two weeks. The goal is to make your child comfortable so he or she can get plenty of rest. Be sure to call your child’s doctor if your child gets sicker.

PDF: Antibiotic use - CHI 1388

Derechos de autor(c) de The Children's Medical Center, ano 1999. Este material unicamente tiene fines educativos. No puede ser reproducido, distribuido ni modificado sin previa autorizacion de The Children's Medical Center of Dayton, One Children's Plaza, Dayton, Ohio, 45404-1815. Llame al 937-641-3666 para solicitar autorizacion o para obtener un juego maestro para copias. Para obtener mas informacion puede visitar (consulte la seccion de informacion legal).

La informacion contenida en este material es unicamente informacion de tipo general. No debe considerarse como completa. Para obtener mas informacion acerca de los complementos para leche materna, por favor pidala a su doctor.
Preparado: November 2011
Revisado: 2011

The information contained in this handout is for general information only and should not be considered complete. For specific information about bathing your baby, please ask your doctor or nurse practitioner.

Additional information may be located in the Family Resource Center, 2nd floor, near the Outpatient Surgery Center. Hours of the center vary; please contact the Family Resource Center at 937-641-3700.

Copyright(c) The Children's Medical Center of Dayton. This material is for educational purposes only. It cannot be reproduced or distributed without permission from Dayton Children's.
Formulated: November 2011
Reviewed: 2011


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