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Many parents question whether or not their children should be prescribed an antibiotic or wonder, if sometimes, an illness is best off running its course without treatment.

Here are some commonly asked questions and replies by the American Academy of Pediatrics:

KCFM: My child has a really bad cold. Why won't the doctor prescribe an antibiotic? 

AAP: Colds are caused by viruses. Antibiotics are used specifically for infections caused by bacteria. In general, most common cold symptoms—such as runny nose, cough, and congestion—are mild and your child will get better without using any medicines. Many young children—especially those in child care—can get 6 to 8 colds per year.

KCFM: Don't some colds turn into bacterial infections? So why wait to start an antibiotic? 

AAP: In most cases, bacterial infections do not follow viral infections. Using antibiotics to treat viral infections may instead lead to an infection caused by resistant bacteria. Also, your child may develop diarrhea or other side effects. If your child develops watery diarrhea, diarrhea with blood in it, or other side effects while taking an antibiotic, call your child's doctor.

KCFM: Isn't a nose draining yellow or green mucus a sign of a bacterial infection? 

AAP:During a common cold, it is normal for mucus from the nose to get thick and to change from clear to yellow or green. Symptoms often last for 10 days. Sinusitis is a term that means inflammation of the lining of the nose and sinuses. A virus or allergy can cause sinusitis and in some cases, bacteria can be the cause. There are certain signs that bacteria may be involved in your child's respiratory illness. If your child has a common cold with cough and green mucus that lasts longer than 10 days, or if your child has thick yellow or green mucus and a fever higher than 102°F for at least 3 or 4 days, this may be a sign of bacterial sinusitis.

If your child has developed bacterial sinusitis (which is uncommon), an antibiotic may be needed. Before an antibiotic is prescribed, your child's doctor will ask about other signs and examine your child to make sure an antibiotic is the right medicine.

KCFM: Aren't antibiotics supposed to treat ear infections? 

AAP: Many true ear infections are caused by viruses and do not require antibiotics. If your pediatrician suspects your child's ear infection may be from a virus, he or she will talk with you about the best ways to help relieve your child's ear pain until the virus runs its course. At least half of all ear infections go away without antibiotics. Because pain is often the first and most uncomfortable symptom of ear infection, your child's doctor will suggest pain medicine to ease your child's pain. Acetaminophen and ibuprofen are over-the-counter pain medicines that may help lessen much of the pain. Be sure to use the right dose for your child's age and size. In most cases, pain and fever will improve within the first 1 to 2 days.

Your child's doctor may prescribe antibiotics if your child has a fever that is increasing, more severe ear pain, and infection in both eardrums.

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Tags: Featured Story, Health, Maternity, Parenting


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