A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic

Antibiotic resistance and kids: What you need to know

Person with pills in their hand - Antibiotic resistance and kids

Research has found using the same antibiotic over and over to treat bacterial infections can lead to antibiotic resistance.

Doctors have used antibiotics to treat bacterial infections for more than 90 years. However, research has found using the same antibiotic over and over to treat bacterial infections can be a bad thing.

Eventually bacterial infections can become hard to treat because they become resistant to different types of antibiotics.

This is why your child’s doctor should take special care when prescribing antibiotics.

“Doctors are cautious when prescribing antibiotics to children because we have learned that it can lead to infections that are more difficult to treat,” said Dr. Scott Olson, pediatric infectious disease specialist with Marshfield Clinic Health System.

Different types of antibiotics

When prescribing an antibiotic, a doctor typically chooses between a narrow-spectrum and broad-spectrum antibiotic.

Your child’s doctor uses a narrow-spectrum antibiotic to target a specific bacterial infection. It typically only works on a limited number of infections, while a broad-spectrum antibiotic treats many different infections.

Your child’s doctor should try to use a narrow-spectrum antibiotic first because it lowers the risk of antibiotic resistance.

A doctor may prescribe a broad-spectrum antibiotic in some cases like:

  • When the doctor is not able to confirm the specific bacterial infection causing the illness
  • When your child may be allergic to the narrow-spectrum antibiotic that could have been used

Fixing the problem

The main concern for doctors is overuse of broad-spectrum antibiotics across a large population. This can lead to more antibiotic-resistant infections.

“Globally the emergence of extended spectrum beta-lactamase has definitely been associated with the over-use of broad-spectrum antibiotics,” Olson said.

Most healthcare organizations are now required to have an antimicrobial stewardship program. This encourages doctors to use narrow-spectrum antibiotics.

The Infectious Disease Society of America also provides doctors with guidelines on what type of antibiotic they should prescribe for common bacterial infections.

Talk to your child’s doctor for more information about your healthcare organization’s antibiotic prescribing practices.

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