Bacterial Versus Viral – Making Wise Choices to Help Your Kids Feel Better
February 13, 2017
It’s cold and flu season, and when your child isn’t feeling well, you want relief fast. And for many parents, that might mean they expect their child to receive an antibiotic to help them recover as soon as possible. But that desire for a quick fix can actually create even more problems.
“Unfortunately, many think if they get an antibiotic, they’ll feel better in a day or two,” explains Dr. Jesse Van Heukelom, pediatrician with the HRMC Physicians Clinic. “What happens a lot of times is by the time the people get the antibiotics, the viral infection is already starting to improve and they would have gotten better within a couple days, even without the antibiotics.”
Being more educated about when antibiotics can be useful is important for parents. That means learning the difference between bacterial versus viral infections.
“The difference between a bacteria and a virus is the way they're formed,” Dr. Jesse explained. “Bacteria are infections which are killed by antibiotics. Viruses do not respond to antibiotics, so if you’re suffering from a typical cold or throat infection, antibiotics won’t work because they're not bacterial infections.”
“It's always hard to know if an antibiotic is needed or not needed. That's why anytime you do feel like an illness is lasting longer than what it may have in the past, you should go to your medical provider,” Dr. Jesse said. “They're the ones who have the expertise to be able to further distinguish if it is a viral infection or a bacterial infection.”
Antibiotics have come to the forefront in the last several years. “We're having a lot of infections that are becoming resistant to certain antibiotics that we use,” Dr. Jesse said. “More than two million illnesses and 23,000 deaths a year can be contributed to antibiotic-resistant infections or bacteria.”
The CDC and the medical community is working to inform the public on how to limit the use of antibiotics to prevent that resistance.
“Once you develop resistance to a certain antibiotic, then that can be with you the rest of your life,” Dr. Jesse said. “One of the major infections that we see is called MRSA, which is resistant to the penicillins or amoxicillins. That bacteria can live on you the rest of your life, so anytime you get an infection, stronger antibiotics are needed to be able to fight it.”
According to Dr. Jesse, once a person develops a resistance to one antibiotic, a cycle begins where there are fewer options doctors can use to help the patient.
Parents are a key part of fighting this frightening trend. “About one out of every three antibiotic prescriptions are not medically recommended. One of the reasons physicians site for overprescribing is there's pressure on them by the parents or patients to be able to get their kids or themselves feeling better faster,” Dr. Jesse said. “So people still think that's the quick fix. It’s our job in the medical community to educate parents and patients that antibiotics are not the quick fix.”
Dr Jesse says cold, sore throat and upper respiratory symptoms can last for 7-14 days or more. He recommends rest, plenty of fluids and over-the-counter remedies to help ease symptoms. Prevention is also key – including flu shots and good hand hygiene. For more information on protecting yourself and your kids from antibiotic resistance, read “Fight Back Against Superbugs” in the Winter Well One Connection.
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