Know When Antibiotics Are Right

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Get Smart About Antibiotics

What do sinusitis, most sore throats, bronchitis, runny noses and the regular cold have in common? They are upper respiratory tract infections usually caused by viruses that can′t be cured with antibiotics. Rest, fluids, and over-the-counter products may be your or your child's best treatment option.

“The overuse of antibiotics is a very serious threat to everyone’s health,” explains Sherman Alter, MD, director of infectious disease at Dayton Children’s. “When persons are given antibiotics that are not needed, when ‘stronger’ antibiotics are used instead of medications that are less broad-spectrum, when persons take medications left over from an old prescription or when one shares antibiotics – all of these contribute to the emergence of bacteria that are more difficult to treat. Taking antibiotics when one does not need them increases a person’s risk of later acquiring an infection that resists antibiotic treatment.”

Dangers of Antibiotic Resistance

If antibiotics are used too often for things they can't treat—like colds, flu, or other viral infections—they can stop working effectively against bacteria when you or your child really needs them. Antibiotic resistance—when antibiotics can no longer cure bacterial infections—has been a concern for years and is considered one of the world's most pressing public health problems. Widespread overuse of antibiotics is fueling an increase in antibiotic-resistant bacteria. So the next time you or your child really needs an antibiotic for a bacterial infection, it may not work.

If You Have a Cold or Flu, Antibiotics Won't Work for You!

Colds and flu are caused by viruses, not bacteria. Taking antibiotics when your child has a virus may do more harm than good. Get smart about when antibiotics are appropriate—to fight bacterial infections. Taking them for viral infections, such as a cold, most sore throats, the flu or acute bronchitis:

  • Will not cure the infection;
  • Will not keep other people from getting sick;
  • Will not help you or your child feel better; and
  • May cause unnecessary and harmful side effects.

Get Smart About Antibiotics

What Not to Do

  • Do not demand antibiotics when your child's doctor says they are not needed.
  • Do not give your child an antibiotic for a viral infection like a cold or most sore throats.
  • Do not give your child antibiotics prescribed for someone else. The antibiotic may not be appropriate for your or your child’s illness. Taking the wrong medicine may delay correct treatment and allow bacteria to multiply.

 If your child's doctor prescribes an antibiotic make sure you:

  • Do not skip doses.
  • Do not save any of the antibiotics for the next time your child gets sick.

What to Do

Talk with your child's doctor about the best treatment options. To help your child feel better when he or she has an upper respiratory infection:

  • Increase fluid intake;
  • Get plenty of rest;
  • Use a cool-mist vaporizer or saline nasal spray to relieve congestion; and
  • Soothe a throat with ice chips, sore throat spray, or lozenges (do not give lozenges to young children).

For more information on the Get Smart About Antibiotics Week campaign, visit


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