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4 Things You Need to Know about Antibiotics

When a child has a cold, sore throat or a virus, it usually means a trip to the doctor’s office or urgent care. As parents, we expect the provider to write a prescription for an antibiotic to help our child feel better as quickly as possible, but antibiotics aren’t always needed. According to the CDC, at least 47 million antibiotic prescriptions each year are unnecessary.

Any time antibiotics are used they can cause side effects and lead to antibiotic resistance. Children’s Mercy is committed to using antibiotics appropriately, and we have a dedicated antibiotic stewardship team that works with the medical team to evaluate and optimize antibiotic therapy seven days a week.

Here are four facts you should know to be antibiotics aware:

Antibiotics aren’t always the answer

Antibiotics do not work on viruses, such as colds and flu, or runny noses, even if the mucus is thick, yellow or green.

Antibiotics are only needed for treating certain infections caused by bacteria and won’t help some common bacterial infections, which includes most cases of bronchitis, many sinus infections and some ear infections.

Antibiotics will not make you feel better if you have a virus

Respiratory viruses usually go away in a week or two without treatment. Ask your healthcare professional about the best way to help your child feel better while their body fights off the virus.

Taking antibiotics creates resistant bacteria

Antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria no longer respond to the drugs designed to kill them. According to the CDC, antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest public health challenges of our time. Each year in the U.S., at least 2 million people get an antibiotic-resistant infection, and at least 23,000 people die.

Antibiotics saves lives

When a child needs an antibiotic, the benefits outweigh the risks of side effects or antibiotic resistance. Children should take the antibiotic exactly as prescribed and talk with your doctor if your child develop any side effects, especially diarrhea, since that could be a sign of an infection, which needs to be treated.


Test your knowledge about antibiotics. Take the CDC’s quiz.

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