Pediatricians write more than 10 million unnecessary antibiotic prescriptions every year for conditions such as the flu and asthma, contributing to potentially dangerous drug resistance, a study said.
In total, doctors prescribed an antibiotic at one in every five visits, with most dispensed for children with respiratory ailments such as sinus infections and pneumonia.
Some of those infections were caused by bacteria, warranting antibiotics. But almost one-quarter of all antibiotic prescriptions were given to children with respiratory conditions that probably or definitely do not call for antibiotics, such as bronchitis, the flu, asthma and allergies.
That translates to more than 10 million antibiotic prescriptions each year that likely won’t do any good but might do harm, said study leader Adam Hersh of the University of Utah in Salt Lake City.
Half of all the antibiotics prescribed were “broad-spectrum” drugs, which act against a wide range of bacteria — killing more of the good bacteria in the bodies as well and perhaps setting the child up for more serious infections with antibiotic-resistant bacteria later on.
“We think of antibiotics as being wholly beneficial, but they are not very specific, they hit everything in your body. By making our microbes that are supposed to be with us disappear, we can be causing other health problems we don’t know about.”
And to avoid over-prescription? Hersh said that one way might simply be to wait several days and check the child again.