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11/20/14news article

new studies reveal surprising details about antibiotic use connected to race and weight gain

All reasons to “Get Smart about Antibiotics”, says the CDC

Could antibiotics make kids obese?  According to a recent study in JAMA Pediatrics, children who took broad-spectrum antibiotics four or more times before they turned two had a higher risk of obesity. 

Another study published in Pediatrics online revealed black children are less likely to be diagnosed with an ear infection than white children, and less likely to receive an antibiotic when they are diagnosed.  While there may be many reasons for that, the outcome is that their care more closely follows recommended guidelines and they will be less likely to develop antibiotic resistance.

Dayton Children’s is encouraging parents to know the facts about antibiotics, as part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “Get Smart about Antibiotics” week.  The agency says antibiotics are one of the most prescribed drugs, but nearly half of the time, they are not needed. In fact, a recent study published in Pediatrics found that 11 million prescriptions for antibiotics were written for children every year that weren’t necessary. 

Researchers say there are many reasons for the excess prescriptions.  In some cases, it’s because there are few tools to distinguish between a viral or bacterial infection, so antibiotics are a default treatment.  At Dayton Children’s, there are committees and panels that review lab results and medical records to make sure patients are getting the right antibiotics when they need them and not getting them when they would be ineffective.  However many times at the doctor’s office, parents ask for antibiotics, feeling it’s necessary to battle the illness their child is facing.

While antibiotics are an incredibly powerful tool in the right circumstances, new research is finding that using too many or the wrong kinds can cause problems. Overusing antibiotics leads to “antibiotic resistance.” That means the drug stops working on certain bacteria.The CDC estimates that 23,000 people die in the U.S. every year because of antibiotic resistance – there is no longer a drug that can effectively fight off the bacteria growing in their body.

The problem has become so big, the White House recently issued an executive order targeting antibiotic resistance.A key part of these efforts include limiting when a child takes antibiotics.

For parents, it’s important to know when to just say no to antibiotics. Many of the illnesses a child will encounter don’t need them. “Viruses will not respond to antibiotics,” says Sherman Alter, MD, director of the infectious disease department at Dayton Children’s Hospital.“Viruses cause colds, the flu, most sore throats, bronchitis, and many sinus and ear infections.  A child’s immune system is the only thing that can defeat a virus.”

Parents can help by providing supportive care.

  • Rest
  • Plenty of fluids
  • Cool-mist humidifier to help relieve congestion
  • Over-the-counter medicines, if the child is old enough

The only time children need an antibiotic is when they are battling harmful bacteria.  “Bacteria can cause illnesses like strep throat or a urinary tract infection,” explains Dr. Alter.  “In that case, your doctor will prescribe an antibiotic to kill these living organisms.  However, it is also important that your doctor prescribe the lowest dose that will be effective on that bacteria to keep it from developing resistance to the drug.”  Experts also recommend a narrow-spectrum antibiotic, like penicillin or amoxicillin, instead of a broad-spectrum version.

Dayton Children’s experts also urge parents to make sure children are up to date on recommended vaccinations. For example, all children over the age of 6 months should receive an annual influenza vaccine.  Sometimes children who get the flu also develop other infections, such as an ear infection, which may require antibiotic treatment.  Preventing the flu might have prevented this complication and the need for antibiotics.

For more information, contact: 
Stacy Porter 
Communications specialist 
Phone: 937-641-3666 

Alter Sherman
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Sherman Alter, MD

division chief infectious disease
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